Comments /611 Views / Saturday, 13 October 2012 00:00
The United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution in 2011 to establish October 11 as the International Day of the Girl Child. To commemorate this in 2012, United States Ambassador to Sri Lanka and Maldives Michele J. Sison paid a special visit with Emerge Lanka to the Salvation Army Haven and Sunshine Home, where she met with girls attending a workshop empowering them to be gender-violence awareness coaches.
Founded by an American student and run by a Sri Lankan American, Emerge Lanka provides a home and educates girls who have survived abuse with the personal, social, and financial capital needed to support themselves and their children. Ambassador Sison thanked the girls for their participation, adding: “Through the training we hope to see each of you empowering not only yourselves, but also helping you develop a new life filled with the dignity that you deserve.”
Throughout the year, the US Embassy in Colombo promotes a series of programs aimed at supporting girls across Sri Lanka. The Embassy has partnered with local homes, such as the Fathima Welfare Centre, a Muslim girls’ orphanage in the Western Province, with English language training and a reading club.
Through the Embassy’s development arm, USAID, the Embassy spent $ 2.5 million in 34 grants to benefit girls with the construction of schools and playgrounds, and education support in the north and east. Children such as Rajitha, a 12-year-old from Batticaloa District who recently learned to write, are returning to school thanks to one such program that helps six to 12-year-old students catch up to their peers.
The US Government also supports programs to reduce gender-based violence (GBV), including an 18-month program through Save the Children to teach rights and protection to girls in the Southern, Western, and Eastern Provinces and funding the Sri Lankan NGO Women In Need (WIN) in its ongoing work in Jaffna and Puttalam to assist GBV victims. In addition, a $740,000 Sexual Assault Forensic Examination (SAFE) program aims to decrease incidence of sexual assault and abuse through successful prosecution of offenders.
Around the globe, girls face discrimination due both to gender and age. It is the United States’ hope that though increasing awareness about the needs of girls that civil society, the government, and the private sector can work together to prioritise girls’ rights and promote stronger women for future generations. If you would like to participate in future events with the American Embassy in Colombo, please tweet the Embassy, @USEmbSL, with the hashtag #dayofthegirl to explain what the Day of the Girl means to you.
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