International Day of the Girl Child
October 11 is The International Day of the Girl Child. Today 1.1 billion girls live on the planet. Many of them deal with great problems that inhibit their ability to realize their full potential. Many live in extreme poverty, 130 million girls do not attend school, and 71 percent of human trafficking victims are girls. The International Day of the Girl Child calls attention to the importance of addressing the challenges confronting girls, promoting girls’ empowerment, and guaranteeing their human rights. Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, writes:
This International Day of the Girl Child comes at turbulent times, with the world facing the rising challenges of forced displacement, climate change and violent extremism. Whether caused by armed conflict or natural disaster, humanitarian crises always hurt women and girls the most—they account for more than 75 percent of the refugees and displaced persons at risk from war, famine, persecution and natural disaster. They are also vulnerable to sexual abuse and exploitation, during conflicts and in refugee camps.
In celebrating the day, the United Nations, which initiated the event in 2012, declares: “Adolescent girls have the right to a safe, educated, and healthy life, not only during these critical formative years, but also as they mature into women. If effectively supported during the adolescent years, girls have the potential to change the world—both as the empowered girls of today and as tomorrow’s workers, mothers, entrepreneurs, mentors, household heads, and political leaders” By investing in the education and development of adolescent girls, the world can help them obtain “a more equitable and prosperous future” and work as equal partners to help solve “the problems of climate change, political conflict, economic growth, disease prevention, and global sustainability.”
During the last fifteen years, substantial progress has been made around the globe in improving the lives of girls during early childhood. Girls in their first decade of life are now more likely to enroll in primary school, receive important vaccinations, eat better, and experience better health than were earlier generations. However, much more investment is needed to help girls overcome the challenges they face in the second decade of their lives, especially receiving quality secondary and higher education, avoiding child marriage, gaining access to information and services about reproductive health, and protecting themselves against unwanted pregnancy, sexually-transmitted disease, and gender-based violence.
Heidi Stephens argues in the Chicago Tribune that “this year’s celebration should be dedicated to Malala Yousafzai, who attended her first lecture at Oxford University this week—five years after Taliban militants shot her in the head for advocating for girls’ education.” She is pursuing a degree in philosophy, politics, and economics at this prestigious university.
Beyonce, the mother of two girls and the mastermind of the anthem “Run the World (Girls)" produced a video featuring an international troupe of charismatic young girls lip syncing and dancing to her 2016 song “Freedom.”
Let’s work together to improve life for girls around the world.