Why Girls Need a Special Day of Recognition

Oct 10th, 2013 | By | Category: Youth Rights

By Suzanne York, www.howmany.org

Perhaps more than almost anyone else, girls all over the world deserve a day of recognition.  This October 11th is International Day of the Girl, a special day intended to highlight an issue of global importance.  Girls, who are all too often ignored or devalued, could use some international support.

The purpose of this day 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.”

The theme for this year is “Innovating for Girls’ Education” focusing on how educating girls is the key to creating a better future and world for everyone.

There is a long list of challenges for girls globally, but especially in developing countries. They are often neglected, forced to work around the home or in the fields, go on long treks to gather firewood for fuel and water, all too often are not allowed or able to attend school, face violence, and suffer poor nutrition and other health-related issues.

On the other hand, there are many solutions to end the plight of girls, and these are things organizations, governments and people should be supporting anyway.

Inspiring Stories of Girls

It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking the problems are insurmountable.  But the stories of overcoming the odds and making girl’s rights a priority are increasing everywhere.  This is especially true for greater access to education.

Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani shot by the Taliban only last year for speaking out for the right of girls to go to school, has become the face of the movement.  And if this 16-year-old’s story hasn’t been incredible enough, her biography has just been released and she has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

[photo credit: www.plan.org.au]

Malala is a passionate advocate for education for both girls and boys and the teenager is calling on world governments to provide every child with free education. To support her cause, sign the Stand with Malala petition in support of education for the 57 million children around the world who do not go to school.

Elsewhere, the website of the United Nation’s Girls Education Initiative has many examples of successful programs and initiatives helping to empower girls.

One in particular is the Education Stakeholders Forum in Sierra Leone, set up by UNICEF to help girls attend school. It is made up of community leaders, non-governmental organizations, school representatives, mother clubs and local councils.  A case was brought to the organization’s attention when a teacher told the story of a 13-year-old student who was distressed that her parents’ planned to marry her off before she could finish her schooling.

The teacher tried to intervene on the girl’s behalf, but the parents wouldn’t listen.  The teacher then turned to the Education Stakeholders Forum for support, which worked with the parents to educate them on the effects of child marriage. In this case the parents agreed to wait on marriage until their daughter could finish school.  The girl said, “I want to be a social worker after I finish my education because I want to help change some negative traditional practices and decisions that affect the development of the girl child.”

[photo credit: unmultimedia.org]

Change is Coming

There is still much work to be done to elevate the rights of girls.  But growing awareness of the needs of the girl child is changing the situation for the better.  There is never enough financial support, and sometimes change is slow, but it is coming.

The International Day of the Girl is just one day out of the year, but with greater support it can make more days better for girls in every nation and every walk of life, which in turn will help create a healthier global society.


Suzanne York is a senior writer with the Institute for Population Studies.


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