Last week commemorated Human Rights Day, a day that recognizes the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations General Assembly over 60 years ago. This milestone document advocates for the fundamental rights and freedoms that are essential for all human beings to live happy, healthy and prosperous lives.
This year, Human Rights Day also acts as a reminder that women and girls across the globe are still being denied many of their rights, including the right to live safely in their homes, schools and communities.
Despite many advances in politics, health and education, 2015 was a tough year for women and girls. Acts of violence against girls continues to persist at alarming levels and in many forms throughout the world.
In the United States, one out of every six women and girls will be a victim of sexual assault at some point in their lives. Pre-teen and teenage girls are particularly vulnerable, especially those who come from a background of sexual or physical abuse, drug abuse, domestic violence, foster homes or have history as a runaway. California is a Top 4 destination in the United States for human trafficking and in San Diego, a hotbed for the sex trafficking of youth, 1 in 5 runaways have been approached to engage in acts of prostitution.
At times, the future seems dire for girls, but there is hope and it begins at the community level. PCI’s San Diego-based Girls Only program focuses on empowering young girls through the promotion of positive self-esteem, development of life skills, and inspiring positive motivation. Girls Only seeks to build resiliency in girls by providing them with inspiring mentors and collaborative peer guidance, interactive lesson plans and a place to be understood and feel safe.
This unique program encourages young girls to learn to love and honor themselves, giving them the resources to find alternatives to the kinds of abusive relationships that often lead to involvement with gangs, substance abuse, sexual assault and, eventually the criminal justice system.
Programs like Girls Only offer a pathway to a future where the human rights of women and girls are seen not as a commodity to be bartered with, but as equal to men. By engaging young girls as changemakers who know their worth, they will ensure that their communities rise to the same challenge and promote happiness, health and prosperity for all.