International Day of the Girl
October the 11th is international girl’s day, this year the day focus “Girls’ Progress = Goals’ Progress: A Global Girl Data Movement”, is designed to be a call for action for increased investment in the collection and analysing of girl-focused, girl-relevant and sex-disaggregated data. Greatly improving data on girls and addressing the issues that are holding them back is going to be a critical step if the world intends to fulfil the Sustainable Development Goals set for 2030. This is a day chosen by the UN to recognise girls rights and the unique challenges they face all around the world. The day aims to highlight the need to meet these challenges and promote empowerment and the fulfilment of girl’s human rights.
Over the last 20 years, many countries in the global community have made significant progress in improving the lives of girls during both early childhood and adolescence. However, much progress is still needed for a truly equal and fair society for all. Girls still face major discrimination in areas such as education, forced marriages, healthcare, employment and many many more.
(Early pregnancy leads to the lack of education)
Adolescence is a particularly dangerous time for girls, this is the age where she may be forced to marry someone, usually for a dowry or trade. Each year 28 million girls are forced/made to marry before the age of 18. In developing countries, 1 in every 3 girls is married before the age of 18. Girls who are child brides are far more vulnerable to sexual and physical abuse or violence. These girls are often taken out of education so that they may take on domestic responsibilities. Child brides tend to get pregnant before they are physically or mentally prepared for it. Child marriage is fuelled by gender inequality, lack of education, poverty, tradition and sometimes economics. It violates girl’s rights to health education and equal opportunities, it can also trap them in poverty and leave them vulnerable to abuse. Child marriage and education are strongly linked and have great effects on each other. A girl who has a secondary education is three times less likely to get married before 18 and 60 percent of women with no education were married by 18. Making sure girls stay in education could be a key step in reducing the number of child marriages.
(Ahead of International Day of the Girl Child, UN Women Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson visited Malawi to shine a global spotlight on the need to end child marriage.)
In general education is one of, if not the most important tool in empowering people, especially girls. Education is also another area where the data shows clearly how large the discrimination and the challenges girls face are. Among the 264 million children globally who are not attending school, twice as many of them are girls and among the 750 million illiterate adults in the world once again two-thirds of them are girls.
In developing countries, the effects of education can be most clearly seen, for each year a girl stays in secondary education her potential income increase by 25 % (15% is the global average). A second huge bonus is that for every year spent in education a women’s / girl’s first pregnancy is delayed by roughly 10 months. As younger mothers are twice as likely to die in childbirth in developing countries this is a very important factor. In addition, educated women are likely to have fewer unplanned pregnancies and have more healthy children, a child born to a woman who can read is 50% more likely to live past the age of 5. Having fewer children who are healthy is far less of an economic burden and can allow families to break the poverty cycle. According to the UN, gaining an education is the single most successful means of breaking out of poverty. That a woman may have a far happier and healthier life due to education should be reason enough to promote it, however, society as a whole benefits greatly and the economic knock-on effect is huge.
(Research shows that girls who go to school earn higher salaries, raise healthier families and have lower rates of HIV and maternal mortality.)
Adolescence is also a time when a girls chances of suffering violence and abuse increases significantly As a girl begins to grow into womanhood, sexuality and gender roles begin to assume greater importance in how these adolescent girls are viewed socially and culturally. Every year 1.3 million adolescents die from a variety of causes, diseases, natural disasters, violence, injuries and even pregnancies. However, according to UNICEF, the chances of an adolescent girl dying due to violence (predominantly domestic violence) increase from 0.4% at age 0 to 9 to 13% at age 15 to 19. Thankfully an educated woman or girl is far less likely to suffer domestic abuse.
The empowerment of girls and women often starts on the benches of school, with quality education and access to culture and information. Gender equality means literacy. It means access to science and knowledge. It means genuine possibilities for girls to become anything they wish to be and to make their own informed choices. This is essential for human rights, for health, for sustainable development, for the fabric of societies as a whole. As a society, we must band together to stamp out these inequalities and give girls absolutely equal opportunities, not only are the benefits to one’s society enormous but it is simply the right thing to do. This International Girls Day try to see what you can do in the world around you to help, every small victory is so important.
“What is the impact of Child Marriage: Education” Girls Not Brides, 2017. http://www.girlsnotbrides.org/themes/education/
“The Effect of Girls’ Education on Health Outcomes: Fact Sheet” Population Reference Bureau. http://www.prb.org/Publications/Media-Guides/2011/girls-education-fact-sheet.aspx
“Education Data” Global Partnership for Education, 2017. http://www.globalpartnership.org/data-and-results/education-data
“Hidden in Plain Sight: A statistical analysis of violence against children” Unicef, 2015. https://www.unicef.org/publications/index_74865.html
“A statistical snapshot of violence against adolescent girls” Unicef Publications, 2014. https://www.unicef.org/publications/files/A_Statistical_Snapshot_of_Violence_Against_Adolescent_Girls.pdf
“Girls’ education: A lifeline to development” The United Nations, 2017. https://www.unicef.org/sowc96/ngirls.htm