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11 October 2018: Girlforce!

This year’s International Day of the Girl Child focuses on ‘a skilled workforce’. UNICEF knows – and shows – it can happen!

© UNICEF/2018/Hearfield
Grade 11 pupil of Alexandra Secondary School, Nokwazi Sibiya (16 years old), sharing her experience of job shadowing at Discovery, an Insurance company in South Africa, with UNICEF Excutive Director Henrietta H Fore. She is part of the Techno Girl Programme.

You don’t need a university degree to comprehend the critical importance of education to the outcome of a person’s life. For decades now, UNICEF has worked hard to helped put girls’ education as a major issue on the agendas of donors and policy makers. And as part of this, battling the embedded familial financial structures and social norms that often allow girls to fall through cracks. For when girls fall through the cracks, they really do fall: missing out on a full, essential, life changing education.

Enter, by way of one example, Techno Girls: For 13 years, UNICEF – together with public and private sector partners – has brought together thousands of high achieving or promising female students, from Year 9 and above, from disadvantaged backgrounds and marginalized schools. Far from falling through the many cracks, in TechnoGirl the girls are highly encouraged in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (S.T.E.M) subjects, and then given exposure to these industries via mentorship and job shadowing during their school holidays. As such, the TechnoGirls Initiative gives girls direct exposure and access to – and the skills they need – for careers in these fields.

The programme represents an extra, authentic and practical layer to the UNICEF priority of quality and inclusive primary and secondary education. The TechnoGirls programme has been running in South Africa, where a population and youth bulge is begging for new recruits so as to meet the industrial demands to build Africa’s future. Since its inception, over 10,000 South African girls from marginalized schools and backgrounds have been participated in the initiative. These new pathways also serve to quash biased notions that maths and science are better suited as subjects for boys at school; or later for careers meant just for men. (A quick shout out here for 2018 Nobel prize winner in physics, Donna Strickland!)

This year’s International Day of the Girl Child on October 11 focuses on a skilled workforce. The global campaign’s key message is that the world’s 600 million adolescent girls each have the strength, creativity and energy to meet global industry demands. To mark International Day of the Girl Child, UNICEF and partners are working alongside all girls to expand existing learning opportunities and chart new pathways. As such, UNICEF is calling on the global community to rethink how to prepare girls for a successful transition into the world of work.

Under the theme, With Her: A Skilled GirlForce, International Day of the Girl Child marks the beginning of a year-long effort to bring together partners, stakeholders and influencers to highlight, advocate for and invest in girls’ most pressing needs and opportunities to attain skills for employability. It is beautifully timed, for last month a new global partnership, Generation Unlimited, was launched at the UN General Assembly. GenU aims to ensure every young person – especially girls – are in some form of learning, training or employment by 2030. As such, today’s International Day of the Girl Child is a key moment in this agenda to elevate girls’ and young women’s aspirations and advocate for developing their digital and transferable skills for the future world of work.

It seems timely then to reiterate the need for continued success and expansion of initiatives such as TechnoGirl and leave the last word to one of its stars: Grade 11 pupil of Alexandra Secondary School, Nokwazi Sibiya. “I love to think that UNICEF is creating such opportunities for young girls who are from disadvantaged backgrounds,” says Nokwazi who now job shadows during her school holidays at Discovery, an Insurance company in SA. “It has empowered us young girls to strive for the best and also help others. It is about our own wish to overcome the obstacles that we face every day.”

On this International Day of the Girl, let’s celebrate the Nokwazis of our world, and join together to forge a skilled workforce, with her.



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