DURBAN, South Africa--(BUSINESS WIRE)--“Despite UN declarations and national constitutions, there are millions of girls around the world who are still without access to basic education and healthcare. They are faced with gender inequality, discrimination, physical and sexual abuse in their families and communities and many are forced into child marriages,” says Dr. Penninah Iutung, Africa Bureau Chief for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF).
“As the world commemorates the 5th anniversary of International Day of the Girl Child today, AHF is reminding the world’s governments to keep their promise, empowering girls and ensuring their full and equal participation in political, civil, economic, social and cultural life,” comments Dr. Iutung.
Marked by the United Nations (UN) in 2012, International Day of the Girl Child, aims to highlight and address the needs and challenges girls face, while promoting girls’ empowerment and the fulfillment of their human rights.
On the African continent, child marriage continues to be a wide-spread problem, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, where one in three girls in low and middle-income countries is married before they turn 18 years and one in nine by the age of 15. African countries with the highest rates of child marriage include Niger (76%), Central African Republic (68%), Chad (68%) and Mali (55%).
The world’s largest non-profit HIV/AIDS healthcare provider, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), is commemorating International Day of the Girl Child by donating 1 million sanitary pads to African countries, focusing on Nigeria, Uganda and Zambia.
In addition to special events in Nigeria, Uganda and Zambia, AHF South Africa is celebrating International Day of the Girl Child at the Tom Place Primary School in Middledrift, Eastern Cape from 11:00 AM, ensuring girls in rural areas are not left behind.
“At the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, we believe in giving every child every means necessary to live up to their greatest potential. In some parts of the world where we do our work, that translates into providing some of life's most basic necessities. Too often young girls have to skip school and stay home simply because they can’t afford sanitary pads. Pads only cost a few cents, but these girls can’t afford them and they are being left behind, missing the education that will help them to live a better life, and governments are not stepping in to help. Something so natural to a woman’s development should never be a barrier to her success. This empowerment initiative has a deep, lasting impact, keeping girls in school, staying healthy, taking care of themselves and living productive lives that includes reducing risk and stopping the spread of HIV,” says Michael Weinstein, President of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.
“In South Africa and other African countries, access to free sanitary pads as a way to enable girls to complete their education has been a hotly-debated political topic for years. AHF decided to launch Girls Act in 2016 as a way to illustrate the positive impact that access to sanitary pads, sexual and reproductive health and rights information and healthcare services can make to the lives of girls. At Girls Act events we host discussions about the importance of education, self-esteem, gender-based violence, family planning, HIV and other sexually transmitted infections and we highlight the dangers of substance abuse, unprotected sex and unplanned pregnancy. We end by distributing sanitary pads to all the girls in attendance. This 1 million pad donation takes our commitment to girls empowerment to the next level, expanding the benefits Girls Act and access to sanitary pads to a much larger group of girls and challenging governments to make sanitary pads available to every girls who needs them, allowing them to reach their dreams with dignity,” says Larissa Klazinga, AHF Regional Policy and Advocacy Manager for Southern Africa.
ABOUT THE AIDS HEALTHCARE FOUNDATION (AHF)
The AIDS Healthcare Foundation is the largest non-profit HIV/AIDS healthcare provider in the world. AHF currently provides medical care and/or services to more than 810,000 individuals in 39 countries worldwide in the USA, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean, Eastern Europe, and Asia.