Today the 11th of October 2012, the world is called upon to celebrate the first International Day of the Girl Child.

The establishment and recognition of this day is more than symbolic.

Indeed, it must be understood as a call to action for governments and civil societies to boldly confront the scope and gravity of the continuing high levels of violence against the girl child.

In spite of the global progress in social, political, economic, and human rights which has been achieved by women, in some countries the girl child is still the victim of unacceptable cultural practices such as female genital mutilation, early marriages and other extreme forms of sexual violence.

Here in Jamaica, we have been successful in ensuring equal access of boys and girls to the public education system. We have also seen the exceptional abilities of girls to perform in most spheres of public and academic life.

The challenge for the Jamaican society is that of addressing the high levels of violence that are experienced by the girl child.

Over time, the agencies and departments mandated to ensure gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls have seen a rise in the incidence of rape, carnal abuse, incest, murders and trafficking of girls in Jamaica.

The girl child needs to experience her journey from girlhood to womanhood in an atmosphere of peace and an acknowledgment of her full human rights.

The United Nations, on this day, is once again underscoring the need for the governments and relevant agencies to take seriously their commitments enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child [CRC] and the Convention Against all forms of Discrimination Against Women [CEDAW]

This is an opportune time for us to be reminded of the excellent 2007 global research which was directed by Professor Paulo Sergio Pinheiro.

Pinheiro, who served as the independent expert for the UN Secretary General's study on violence against children recognized that "virtually all forms of violence are linked to entrenched gender roles and inequality and that the violation of the rights of children is closely linked to the status of women"

For us in Jamaica, let us continue to ensure that we can achieve the millennium development goal of gender equality and the empowerment of women.

We have no choice but to make today and forever, a day of justice for every woman and girl in our society.

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