The 1988 SAARC Summit in Islamabad, while reiterating commitment to accord priority to the needs of children in national development plans, also declared 1990 as the "SAARC Year of The Girl Child", and directed that "specific programmes and activities be undertaken to increase public awareness of the problems of the Girl Child".
This postal campaign is designed to highlight some basic facts related to Pakistani girls, and their implications for family and national development. Key areas of concern include:- Survival, Health, Early Marriage, Education, Economic Skills.
WHY A SPECIAL FOCUS ON GIRLS
Situation reviews in each member country indicate that though neglect of girls is part of the overall neglect of children, but due to a mix of socio-economic factors, for girls there is a lower availability and access to actual opportunities and resources.
The future of the nation is a joint responsibility of both men and women. The status of the young girl is the foundation for the adult woman\'s future. Today, our population below 18 years, is almost 60 million, almost half of whom are girls. The rights and development options provided to girls, are not enough to equip them to take on their due role and responsibilities as adult women. A stronger development focus on them is essential for the achievement of national development goals.
SURVIVAL /H EALTH
Due to greater demand for sons in the SAARC Region, girls experience sub conscious neglect through childhood, generally getting a low share in food and health care. As a result, they have lesser chances of survival, and good health. Nature gives females a better chance of survival than males, so most developed countries have more females than males, but in Pakistan there are 10% more males than females, and health standards for girls are low due to early neglect and poor access to health services.
EARLY MARRIAGE /MOTHERHOOD
The high population growth rate presents a problem in all developing countries, constraining national capacity to provide basic amenities to all. A major contributor to the high population increase is the low age of marriage. This has risen gradually in Pakistan, but the 1981 Census found that 30% of girls below 19 years of age were married. Besides raising the population growth rate, marriage of adolescent girls, reduces their health and survival chances, limits their options for proper education and technical skills, and increases the risk of death, disability, and poor health of their children.
Neglect of female education is the main reason for our low national literacy rate. Even primary education is out of reach of almost 60% of Pakistani girls. The number of schools for girls is almost half that of boys. Of those enrolled, almost two thirds drop out early. Only 1 out of 10 girls completes the primary level, as compared to 1 out of six boys. The situation at other levels of education is worse. Lack of education limits their personal mental growth and awareness of better living concepts, besides the motivation to educate their own children.
Besides formal education, girls are usually not encouraged to acquire economic skills. This means depriving them of their future economic contribution to personal and family well being, and placing an increased economic strain on males. The perception of girls as economically dependent entitles, is the basic cause of their being welcomed less by their parents, it also leads to social problems like dowry, and destitution for adult women who are deprived of male economic support due to death, disability, desertion etc.,
Focussing attention on the problems and positive potential of girls is not enough. In order to develop a strong human resource base for long term national development, concrete action is required to ensure equity between boys and girls, in societal respect, nutrition, health care, recreation, education and skill training options. 1990 was the year of recognition. The future need is-for action, along the lines of- the theme for the Girl Child Year in Pakistan - "Hope for Survival, Development with Dignity".
Contributed by United Nations Children\'s Fund
To mark the end of the Girl Child Year, and the beginning of a new era of hope for positive action for the Pakistani Girl, the Pakistan Post Office is issuing one postage stamp of Rs. 2/- denomination on November 21, 1990, which is to be observed as the Girl Child Day in SAARC.