11 October: International Day of the Girl Child

Today is not your typical Sunday; it’s International Day of the Girl Child. While the very well-known International Women’s Day started over 100 years ago in 1909, the International Day of the Girl Child is fairly new—only four years old. Yet it’s goal is a powerful one: In December 2011, the United Nations declared October 11 as a day to “recognize girls’ rights and the unique challenges girls face around the world.”

Empowerment of and investment in girls are key in breaking the cycle of discrimination and violence and in promoting and protecting the full and effective enjoyment of their human rights”

-United Nations Resolution 66/170

The U.N. selects a different theme to focus on every year, and 2015’s theme is “The Power of the Adolescent Girl: Vision for 2030.” The idea is that girls going through adolescence now can start to help make a change, and plan for a better world for girls born now who will be adolescents in 15 years. The day itself is a time to focus on how to help 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,” says the U.N. “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.”

The Day of the Girl is a response to an urgent problem facing our world today: the neglect and devaluation of girls around the world. On October 11 of every year, we see dynamic groups across the world (led by girls, of course) acting to highlight, discuss, celebrate and ultimately advance girls’ lives and opportunities across the globe. When girls come together to talk about what really matters to us, we can teach ourselves and other people–adults, boys, and other girls all across the world–new ways of thinking about gender issues, which will help us take action to change the status quo.

October 11 is not just a day; it’s a movement. A worldwide revolution.

The Day of the Girl is bigger than one issue, one organization, one country, and even the day itself. It is a yearly reflection of what we’ve done and what we need to keep doing to fully achieve gender equality everywhere.

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Beautiful little girls during the Children Empowerment Program, organised by YUVA District Rivière du Rempart. (Photo: YUVA/Luckkana Ghaneswarsing)

Why a Day for Girls? Here’s a dozen reasons.

As girls, we experience inequality in every aspect of our lives. There are a billion reasons why we need the Day of the Girl, but let’s start with just a dozen (all are linked to their source):

By 2015, females will make up 64% of the world’s illiterate (adult) population. (PDF)

Only 30% of girls in the world are enrolled in secondary school. (PDF)

Girls make up half of the high school population, but receive only 41% of all athletic participation opportunities.

Women only hold 15.7% of top leadership positions in Fortune 500 companies.

One in seven girls in developing countries is married off before age 15.

More than half (54%) of all rapes of females happen before age 18. (PDF)

1 in 5 high school girls has been physically or sexually abused by a dating partner.

Children as young as age 11 are forced to work as prostitutes. Some estimates have as many as 1.2 million children being trafficked every year.

54% of 3rd-5th grade girls worry about their appearance and 37% worry about their weight.

57% of music videos feature a female portrayed exclusively as a decorative, sexual object.

Females continue to be underrepresented in top roles in film with less than 1 in 3 speaking characters in children’s movies.

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YUVA works in a way where girls not only advocate for themselves but for others as well. Teaching girls to lead allows them to be part of the solution. (Photo: YUVA/Luckkana Ghaneswarsing)

In 2011, the United Nations declared October 11 as the International Day of the Girl Child. Its mission is “to help galvanize worldwide enthusiasm for goals to better girls’ lives, providing an opportunity for them to show leadership and reach their full potential.” You can read the United Nations General Assembly Resolution on the International Day of the Girl Child for yourselves!

From the U.N.’s website,

The newly adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) offer an opportunity for a global commitment to breaking intergenerational transmission of poverty, violence, exclusion and discrimination – and realizing our vision of a life of dignity for all, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon declared, marking the International Day of the Girl Child.

“Our task now is to get to work on meeting the SDG targets and making good on our promises to give girls all the opportunities they deserve as they mature to adulthood by 2030,” said Mr. Ban in his message on the Day, referring to the newly–adopted 2030 Agenda and its landmark 17 Global Goals.

That means enabling them to avoid child marriage and unwanted pregnancy, protect against HIV transmission, stay safe from female genital mutilation, and acquire the education and skills they need to realize their potential.

“It also requires ensuring their sexual health and reproductive rights. Girls everywhere should be able to lead lives free from fear and violence. If we achieve this progress for girls, we will see advances across society,” continued the UN chief.

The Secretary-general recalled that just after the adoption last month of the Global Goals for, world leaders heard a ringing call from Nobel Peace Laureate Malala Yousafzai, who was flanked in the General Assembly Hall by young people from around the world. ‘Promise us that you will keep your commitments and invest in our future,’ she urged.

“Three years ago, on the International Day of the Girl Child, I condemned the attack against Malala and called for more opportunities for girls everywhere. Today, I applaud her courage and that of her peers, who only want the chance to contribute to our world,” said the Secretary-General.

“Let us resolve to invest in today’s adolescent girls so that tomorrow they can stand strong as citizens, political leaders, entrepreneurs, heads of their households and more. This will secure their rights and our common future,” he declared.

In her remarks UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka said the cadre of 15-year-old girls living today were born at the advent of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) into a world of hope. Not all of those hopes were fulfilled. Many have already dropped out of school to look after family members or take informal work to help support the family.

“More than 250 million of our 15-year-olds are already married, too many are facing the likelihood of HIV infection, especially given the high unmet needs for family planning…and every 10 minutes somewhere in the world, an adolescent girl dies by violent means,” she said, adding that: “These, and the generations that follow them, are the young women for whom we are working so hard.”

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Educate girls, change the world. (Photo: YUVA/Luckkana Ghaneswarsing)
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YUVA

Registered in February 2015, YUVA started as a group of enthusiastic individuals, and today it has mobilised thousands of young people with a simple aim of creating a better future for children and youth of Mauritius. At the heart of YUVA’s duty lies the conviction that the collective destinies of the human race are bound together.

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