The Honourable Jahnel Nisbett
Minister of Health, Gender Affairs, et. al. in the Nevis Island Administration
Speech on the occasion of International Day of the Girl Child
October 11, 2023
I am honoured as the Minister of Gender Affairs to commemorate, with you, the International Day of the Girl Child. This day holds a special place in my heart and is celebrated under the theme “Invest in Girls’ Rights: Our Leadership, Our Well-being”.
Today, we celebrate the boundless potential, the unwavering determination, and the incredible leadership of our girls. It is a day that calls for reflection, inspiration, and action.
The International Day of the Girl Child serves as a global reminder of the importance of protecting and promoting the rights of our girls. It is an occasion for us to pledge our commitment to creating an environment where every girl on our beloved island of Nevis can thrive and reach her fullest potential.
We must recognize that girls’ rights are human rights, and by protecting them we pave the way for a brighter future for all. Girls’ rights encompass a spectrum of fundamental principles: the right to education, the right to healthcare, the right to safety, the right to express themselves, the right to participate in decision-making processes, and so much more.
We, as a society, must ensure that these rights are not just words on paper but the very essence of our collective values and actions. When we invest in girls’ rights, we invest in the future of our nation.
Girls’ leadership is an asset that should be embraced and celebrated. We must recognize that girls have unique qualities, perspectives, and talents that contribute to the development of our island. It is imperative that we encourage girls to take the lead, be it in school, in sports, in the arts, in their communities, or in their homes. Leadership is not limited by age, and girls’ voices matter. When we support girls’ leadership, we empower them to shape the destiny of Nevis.
Our government is committed to fostering an environment where girls’ rights and leadership are not mere aspirations but concrete realities. We have initiated programs to address the specific needs and challenges faced by girls in our society like the ‘Teen Mothers Programme,’ ‘Baby Think It Over’ and others run by the Department of Social Services. These programs aim to enhance girls’ well being, ensuring that they have the resources and opportunities to successfully navigate life’s challenges. By investing in these programs, we invest in a stronger, more equitable Nevis.
However, our government cannot do this alone. The importance of community involvement cannot be overstated. It is within our communities that the bonds of support are formed, where mentorship and guidance are given, and where the foundation for girls’ well being is laid. Initiatives like Girls’ Guides and Girls Brigade remain pillars of our community.
I urge parents, families, and community leaders to play an active role in nurturing and protecting our girls. Together, we can create safe spaces where girls can grow, learn, and thrive.
Furthermore, as we invest in girls’ well being, we must prioritize the creation of information services and systems that are adolescent-girl-friendly. This means that we must ensure that girls have access to accurate and age-appropriate information on a wide range of topics, including sexual and reproductive health, mental health, and educational and career opportunities. We must make healthcare services even more easily accessible to girls, ensuring that their physical and emotional well-being is a top priority.
Additionally, our systems, be it in education, healthcare, or the justice system, must be designed with the specific needs of girls in mind, ensuring girls can flourish in every sector of Nevisian development.
For Nevis to reach its full potential, we must recognize that girls are not just beneficiaries of our efforts but active agents of change. Our girls have the power to shape our society, and we must provide them with the tools and opportunities they need to do so.
To achieve this, we must:
- Promote Gender-Responsive Education: Our educational system must be inclusive and equitable, ensuring that girls have access to quality education that prepares them for leadership roles in all sectors of society.
- Encourage Girls’ Participation: Girls should be encouraged to participate in decision-making processes at all levels, from family life, to local communities, to the national government. Their voices should be heard and valued.
- End Gender-Based Violence: We must take a strong stance against gender-based violence, ensuring that our girls grow up in a safe and secure environment. This includes supporting survivors and educating our society on the importance of respectful relationships.
- Empower Girls with Skills and Opportunities: Providing girls with the skills and opportunities to excel in their chosen fields is essential. Whether it’s in STEM, the arts, or business, we must support their aspirations.
In conclusion, as we celebrate the International Day of the Girl Child, let us reflect on the tremendous potential that lies within our girls. Let us pledge to invest in their rights, nurture their leadership, and prioritize their well-being. It is not enough to simply commemorate this day; we must take action to create a brighter future for the girls of Nevis.
Our girls are our future leaders, and together, we can ensure that they have the opportunity to thrive and reach their full potential. Let us work hand in hand, as a community and a nation, to create a more equitable and inclusive society where girls are celebrated and empowered. This is our commitment, not just for today but for every day, as we strive to make Nevis a place where every girl can truly be the best she can be.
Thank you, and may we continue to invest in the future of our girls and, by extension, the future of Nevis.