“Boys have more apples than girls in math examples - textbooks are not sensitive!" - uttered a participant at the meeting with the MPs.

UNCT-KG-UNDP-BoysPhoto Credit: UNFPA in the Kyrgyz Republic

I remember the song from our childhood “the girls are made of flowers and bells”. ”. This is a wrong meaning- today girls are involved in development of the country and one of good examples - girls-assistants to police. Therefore flowers are not to compare the girls with..

The UN adopted resolution on International Day of the Girl Child in 2012. The purpose of this day is to draw attention to social problems and inequality faced by the girls around the world. These include access to education, nutrition, health care, social rights, protection against discrimination, violence and forced marriage in childhood.

It should be noted the progress in youth empowerment is obvious – we noticed it 11 October 2016, at a meeting of Members of Zhogorku Kenesh with young girls, which was held in the UN House in Bishkek with the support of UNDP and UN Gender Theme Group.

Informal meetup was held in question-and-answer format. Girls were keenly interested in how women manage to break through and become an MP, what are the obstacles to overcome the stereotypes like “a woman's place is in the kitchen”, not at the head of the office. The girls are under 18 years of age, and questions were pulling out of them one after another:

“When you allocate budgets, do you pay attention to the needs of girls?", "Why education in universities is becoming so expensive? We, the girls, have double-trouble because our families would rather educate boys than us, and we are obliged to prove that we need education as well”, “Pay attention to the text books!”- Insistently asked one of the participants – “they are absolutely not sensitive, even the pictures visualize inequality and boys have more apples than girls in math examples!”

The MPs were surprised having listened to the girls. Member of the Parliament Elvira Surabaldieva noted: “You are so progressive, free and informed. I wish that in 20 years, when you meet me, an elderly woman in the street, one of you comes up to me and say – Elvira, remember in a meeting years ago, you told me to go ahead and not be afraid of difficulties? And I have now achieved a lot ...”

Of course, it is too early to talk about big changes, because this was a small group - not all the girls in Kyrgyzstan could openly and freely express their concerns and claim rights. If we look at the statistics, provided by the MP - initiator of the law on prohibition of religious ceremonies for underage - 60 thousand girls are married before age 15 and 160 thousand – before age 18.

Terrible figures tell us our girls are still treated as objects, “... it is basically a real trade and torture of children's bodies, “shame” is a very common word, parents betray and “sell” their daughters. Grooms and their friends perform bride-kidnapping, and groom's parents obtain slaves who inspire her sense of slavery in the name of traditions. She will always be the one to blame for everything - for being beaten by her husband, for her anemic child's body could not bear a child, that she doesn’t know how to perform domestic duties and etc. Who will protect our girls? Who can help break this cycle?” - questions UN Women National Coordinator Nurgul Asylbekova in her social media post, reflecting on the recent national survey conducted by UN Women, UNFPA and IOM.

I think it directly concerns all of us, not as an employee of any agency or institution, but simply as a person. Girls are our present, they live here and now. Let’s give them our hand today - talk to them, discuss their difficulties with them, identify their interests - be it fashion or space flights. Do not make them become future maids for men, do not make them behave “like girls must behave”, do not overthrow housework on them. And most importantly, encourage girls to be curios, independent and self-confident. Thank you, if you agree. Happy International Day of the Girl Child!

Umutai Dauletova, UNDP Gender Mainstreaming Specialist