[Parliament Magazine, Brussels, 11 October 2012] MEPs Edite Estrela, Veronique Mathieu, Jean Lambert and the EU’s new special representative for human rights Stavros Lambrinidis have called on the EU to recognise the importance of defending the rights of the girl child.
The event, held on the international day of the girl on Thursday, looked to "promote the political and economic empowerment of girls", said Lambrinidis, who took up his position in July of this year.
The Greek official, also a former MEP, said the EU "must fight traditional practices that are barriers to girls, such as early marriage and genital mutilation", adding that "two thirds of the global poor are women".
Lambrinidis underlined the importance of tackling early marriage and the early pregnancies these often lead to, saying, "We must stop babies from having babies."
Portuguese S&D MEP Edite Estrela praised the "dedication of the many individuals and organisations that worked to put girls’ rights at the top of the agenda", adding that the campaign had the "support of MEPs across all member states and political groups".
"The international day of the girl creates a foundation for securing investment and recognition for girls. This is a profitable investment for the whole of society," she said.
"This is not just a question of democracy and human rights, but of sustainable growth," said Estrela, who highlighted the role of girls as "powerful agents of change".
French EPP deputy Véronique Mathieu said, "EU governments must mobilise funds for girls’ education", stressing that "girls with access to education will teach their own children".
"Young girls deserve attention from MEPs and NGOs", she said, as they are "too vulnerable" due to their "double status as girl and child".
Jean Lambert, a UK Greens/EFA MEP, raised the case of Malala Yousufzai, a 14 year old girl in Pakistan who was "shot in the face and leg because she dared to blog about the troubles she and her friends faced from political and religious opposition".
Yousufzai was targeted by the Taliban, who said that her promoting of education for girls was pro-western. Yousufzai was shot while leaving school in her hometown in the Swat valley, north-west of the Pakistan capital of Islamabad.
"Investing in girls really matters," said Lambert, who called for this year’s international day of the girl to be dedicated to Yousufzai.
By Desmond Hinton-Beales