Equipping children to know their rights

Girls in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) are too frequently denied their right to a childhood that is safe, healthy, and happy. As part of SAT-7’s work to equip the coming generation, our programs help girls and young women to know their rights.

Every country in the MENA has ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which is more than 25 years old. Despite this, many children in the region grow up deprived of their basic rights. Conflict has made matters much worse, undermining the rights of displaced children to education, healthcare, adequate living conditions, and freedom from abuse.

DEPRIVED OF RIGHTS, DENIED A CHILDHOOD

But in a region with a large gender equality gap, the situation is perhaps most devastating for girls and young women. Many girls are deprived of their rights from early on in life. The abusive practice of FGM (Female Genital Mutilation), which is widespread in some MENA countries, is usually carried out by the age of five. Rates of FGM can reach as high as 87 percent in the region, and the practice presents a long-lasting threat to the right girls have to live healthy lives.

Child marriage is another huge threat to girls’ rights in the MENA, where approximately one in five girls are married before the age of 18 – in Yemen, it is one in three. Marrying girls off while they are still children deprives them of their right to an education and severely limits their prospects. Child brides are often under pressure to have children themselves, despite the dangers this can pose to their physical and mental health.

VULNERABLE TO ABUSE

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) requires that children be protected both from physical violence and from sexual exploitation and abuse. Nonetheless, many parents and teachers in the MENA still rely on violence to maintain discipline. Domestic violence is also legal in many MENA countries, with girls who are married as children particularly at risk.

In some countries, sexual assault and sexual harassment are rife. Shockingly, one survey reported that 99 percent of girls and women in Egypt have experienced sexual harassment. The starting age for girls included in this survey was just ten years old.

EMPOWERING GIRLS TO BE STRONG FUTURE LEADERS

Several SAT-7 channels feature shows that help girls to know and stand up for their rights. SAT-7 KIDS lays the foundation for this by teaching girls and boys that they are loved by God, helping them to see themselves as valuable members of society who are worthy of respect.

The new educational channel SAT-7 ACADEMY helps children to find their own voices and express themselves by teaching them to think critically for themselves. Among the informative programs planned for the channel are short documentaries on FGM and sexual harassment.

On SAT-7 ARABIC, Fourth Floor encourages young women to learn about a variety of social and spiritual issues to win prizes in an innovative game show format. The channel’s women’s programs also help girls to understand their rights. For example, a recent episode of the talk show You are Beautifully Made discussed how young women are often pressured into marriage, with the presenters encouraging viewers that they should be able to choose marriage partners for themselves.

With gender inequality rampant, it is also vital that boys in the MENA are educated about the rights of their female peers. With this end in mind, an episode of the young men’s program Moustache raised awareness, through drama and discussion, of how harmful sexual harassment is to women.

[1] OHCHR

[1] UNICEF

[1] UNICEF

[1] UN Women

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