Fri, Oct 12, 2018 - Page 7 News List

Paraguayan girl shines light on violence, equality

Thomson Reuters Foundation, BOGOTA

Nara, an 11-year-old schoolgirl in Paraguay, has optimistic dreams of becoming a engineer and dark fears of sexual attacks that have befallen several of her young friends.

This week, she gets to do something about it.

She was to serve as Paraguay’s symbolic president yesterday, part of a campaign for the UN’s International Day of the Girl, and plans to talk about combating sexual violence and promoting equality.

“My example for other girls as president is never give up and be confident in yourself,” Nara told reporters. “It’s not just the boys who can achieve things.”

“I would like that girls are treated as equals,” she said. “Men always leave us behind and place barriers in our way.”

Nara’s symbolic presidency is part of the Girls Get Equal campaign of the child rights organization Plan International, which asked that her surname not be revealed for her protection.

The campaign features more than 1,000 girls taking over jobs around the world, from executives at Google and Facebook to ministry posts and local councils, Plan International said.

“It’s girls turn to take the lead — to be seen, heard and valued as equals,” Plan International chief executive Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen said in a statement.

A global survey by the World Economic Forum last year of 30,000 young people found that more than half of young women said their views were not heard or not taken seriously.

Yet more women in leadership drives economic growth, according to UN findings, and ensuring equal participation in politics by 2030 is one of the UN’s global goals.

At current rates, it will take about 50 years to achieve parity among men and women in political participation, the UN says.

Only about one in four parliamentarians worldwide is a woman, while fewer than one in five government ministers is female, the UN says.

Sexual violence is one of the biggest problems holding girls back in Paraguay, Nara said.

“The thing that’s most difficult for girls here is the abuse, the harassment, the rapes,” she said.

She said she has several friends who had been raped, including one girl raped by a shopkeeper about five months ago.

“Girls feel trapped inside themselves because of the violence they have experienced,” Nara said.

Paraguay’s high rates of teenage pregnancy is also a major concern, she said.

One in five of all pregnancies in Paraguay occurs among teenagers, and many of those among girls under age 14 are the result of rape, campaigners say.

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