LAHORE    -   International Day of Girl Child is being observed today (Friday) in Pakistan like other parts of the world to promote girls’ empowerment and rights and highlight the challenges they are facing.

The United Nations General Assembly launched the day in 2012.

Provincial Minister for Human Rights and Minority Affairs Ijaz Alam Augustine said the International Day of the Girl Child (IDGC) was designated to promote rights of girls and address the unique challenges they face.

He said when adolescent girls are empowered, it benefits all and empowered girls can take better care of themselves and their families, increase their earning potential, serve as active and equal citizens and change agents and spur economic growth for communities and nations.

The minister said that violence against women could be reduced by providing them education, vocational training and social support.

Aurat Foundation, a non-government organisation, said in a statement that more than 15 million girls are out of schools and they are confronted with issues like gender-based violence, honour killings, early marriages and forced marriages.

Findings of a study carried out by Aurat Foundation in 2011 say, “Even though girls perform well at primary levels, they are removed from schools for early marriages as soon as they reach puberty.

“Aurat Foundation highlights the importance of a broader, multi-dimensional approach. Under such an approach, implementation of comprehensive legislation on child protection requires sensitizing both the government bodies and the communities at the grassroots,” he said.

The NGO urged the government to invest in high quality education, skills, training, access to technology and other learning initiatives that prepare girls for life, jobs and leadership.

It also urged the government to promote zero tolerance against physical, mental and sexual abuse of girls and implement social, economic, and policy mechanisms to combat early marriages.

“The provincial government should invest in creation and maintenance of social and public spaces for civil and political engagement, creativity and talent enhancement,” the statement reads. Aurat Foundation urged the government to promote gender-responsive legislation and policies across all areas, especially for adolescent girls who are disabled, vulnerable, marginalised, victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation.