The UN designated Oct. 11 as the first International Day of the Girl Child, calling on countries to recognize girls’ rights and the unique challenges girls face. It also expressed the hope that countries around the world would promote the day and celebrate it each year.
The UN said that paying increased attention to the needs of females can spur economic growth and help eliminate poverty. Allowing women to take an active part in decisions that affect them is an integral part of breaking the cycle of violence that affects females and further developing and protecting their human rights.
Unfortunately though, our government has been slow to respond, despite petitions from the Garden of Hope Foundation and many individual women.
Vice Premier Jiang Yi-hua (江宜樺) decided to hold off on deciding whether to declare a “Taiwan Girls’ Day” and asked whether Taiwan would need a special day for males if one was allocated for females. He also questioned whether such a day would become too commercial and even said that Taiwanese females already have it good, questioning the need for any such day at all.
The Garden of Hope Foundation has held the Annual Formosa Daughters event for 10 years in a row. This year we also hosted the Asian Girls’ Rights Campaign, which brought together 80 organizations from 15 countries representing 100,000 females from across Asia.
In contrast, our government has missed an opportunity to lead Asia in establishing a special day for females here in Taiwan, which is highly regrettable. Government support would send out a statement while also showing resolve to pay more attention to women’s issues.
If we take a look at their personal rights, their rights in the media, their rights to health, personal safety and their educational rights, it is easy to see that many young Taiwanese females grow up suffering from discrimination.
Many babies are selected for their gender and many females are never born. The media creates negative self-images among females and this has severely damaged the self-esteem of countless women.
To cater to media-generated stereotypes as well as warped male concepts of female beauty, many women blindly accept ideas like fad dieting and cosmetic surgery. Many young females also get illegal abortions and give birth to unreported children, which can endanger their health. Indeed, the personal safety of females is an area that is one of the biggest challenges of all.
The main reason for these problems is because, from a young age, Taiwanese females are never treated in a fair and serious manner and grow up facing discrimination at home, at school and in broader society.
Many young Taiwanese females develop a negative self-image as a result and related problems such as prostitution, sexual harassment, sexual assault, teenage pregnancies, eating disorders and cosmetic surgery are rampant. Taiwan needs a special day for females and we also need the government to show its resolve, to treat females better and to empower them.
I would like to tell all females in Taiwan not to despair if our country does not care about our needs and is unwilling to give us a special day of our own. We can all cheer now that the first International Day of the Girl Child has been held.
I would also like to encourage every female in Taiwan to declare that she will live a better life and that one day we will have the final say in establishing a special day here in Taiwan for females.
Chi Hui-jung is executive director of the Garden of Hope Foundation.
Translated by Drew Cameron