Crown Princess Mary participated in a virtual event to celebrate the United Nations’ Girls Day, joining a Danish women’s charity to discuss how COVID-19 has impacted girls’ rights in countries like Uganda and Ethiopia.
The Crown Princess was a guest of the PlanBørnefonden, a charitable organisation that works to support the world’s most “fragile and vulnerable areas to ensure the rights of children and young people and create equal opportunities for all, regardless of gender,” according to its website.
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I dag markerede jeg sammen med PlanBørnefonden og 3g’erne på Nærum Gymnasium FNs Internationale Pigedag – en dag, der handler om respekt for og håndhævelse af pigers rettigheder. I dag var der fokus på uddannelse. Vi havde (virtuelt) besøg af Faridah fra Uganda og Lidya fra Etiopien, som svarede på vores spørgsmål om, hvad skolegang og en uddannelse betyder for deres fremtid. Det betyder alt! Og de fortalte begge om de store konsekvenser, COVID19 og nedlukninger af skoler har haft for piger og unge kvinder, ikke kun med hensyn til uddannelse men bl.a. også for en øget risiko for seksuelle overgreb, vold, tidlige ægteskaber og teenagegraviditeter. En af de ting, der slog mig, var, at skole for piger i deres lande, ikke kun handler om uddannelse men også om sikkerhed. Der er de trygge og beskyttet. Vi var alle imponerede over at de ikke giver op. Som Faridah sagde: ”I will not be a victim. I have decided to fight for change.” 🖌 Today I recognised – together with PlanBørnefonden and students from Nærum Gymnasium – the UN International Day of the Girl Child – a day which is about fighting for the respect of girls’ rights. The focus today was on education. Faridah from Uganda and Lidya from Ethipia joined us online and they answered our questions on what school and education means for the future of girls in their respective countries. It means everything! They told us about the dire consequences for girls and young women that COVID19 and the closure of schools has had and continues to have. Consequences not only related to education but, also to an increased risk of sexual assault, violence, early marriage and teenage pregnancies. One thing that struck me during our conversation was that school for girls and young women in their countries is not just about getting education, it is also about being safe. In schools they feel secure and protected. We were all impressed and inspired by Faridah and Lidya’s determination not to give up – and to continue fighting for their own and other’s rights and future. As Faridah said: “I will not be a victim. I have decided to fight for change.”
During the discussion, Crown Princess Mary spoke with 21-year-old Faridah from Uganda and 29-year-old Lidya from Ethiopia about their lives and how COVID-19 has impacted them.
“We know that when the crisis hits, the poorest and most vulnerable are hardest hit, and women and girls are unfortunately often in that group,” said Crown Princess Mary.
Faridah spoke of her focus on ensuring the right to education for young girls after she became pregnant at 14 and struggled to complete her education. She told Crown Princess Mary, “Right now, I am influencing the responsible leaders online and physically to ensure that they ensure that girls have access to education and that they improve the safety of girls. I try to change men’s attitudes and attitudes towards girls because they see us as sex objects. And I encourage the girls to be brave and fight against the injustices they encounter, and go to the police, so we break the circle of silence.”
Crown Princess Mary praised her efforts, saying: “You are such an inspiration, Faridah.”
Lidya spoke of how girls and women are experiencing violence and abuse as a result of the pandemic, telling Crown Princess: “When girls and women are assaulted, they are subsequently afraid of being blamed. Often, if girls are exposed to abuse, harassment or assault, people assume that the girls themselves are to blame.”
“We must first and foremost ensure that girls’ rights are respected and that they are given the opportunity to receive an education,” Crown Princess Mary said at the event, “that they are free from violence, can be healthy and have equal opportunities. They deserve the right to a future that everyone else [has].”