Today’s first ever celebration of the United Nations International Day of the Girl on 10-11-12 could not have come at a better time to highlight the challenges still facing girls around the world. The International Day of the Girl coincides with the growing awareness brought about by the shooting of 14-year-old Malala Yousufzai and two other girls by the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the group claiming responsibility. Malala was shot for speaking out and blogging for the right to girls’ education. She’s described as an education rights campaigner, but as a girl in a culture where just being a smart, outspoken youngster was an act of defiance, she was a bold human rights defender with all its dangers and perils. It is astounding that what would seem in most places and cultures as a simple act of expression of wanting to go to school by a young girl would be met by a cold, calculated and atrocious act of violence. But we know that the life of a girl in many places around the world is not simple or easy in the least.
A girl born in 1995, the year of the Beijing Fourth World Women’s Conference, would have the tender age of 17 just about now. She would have defied the odds, survived numerous risks, and performed revolutionary acts of boldness, beginning with being born.
100 million women are “MISSING” in the developing world because they are killed before or after birth,….It is no exaggeration to call this gendercide. Women are missing in their millions—aborted, killed, neglected to death.” —The Economist
The Three Most Dangerous Words: It’s A Girl Watch this powerful trailer: http://www.itsagirlmovie.com/
She might have gone to school for a year, or two, or more. Chances are that she did not get to see the inside of a middle school or high school. In extreme cases, she experiences acts of violence for wanting to go to school.
The share of girls out of school has declined worldwide from 58% to 54%, and the gender gap in primary education is narrowing in many countries. –2010 Global Monitoring Report of Education for All Goals
The gender gap in primary school enrolment has narrowed in the past decade, albeit at a slow pace. Progress in secondary schooling has been slower, and in some regions, gaps are widening. – Keeping the promise: a forward-looking review to promote an agreed action agenda to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, Report of the UN Secretary-General, 2010
A girl who has an education is more likely to contribute fully to political, social and economic life and grow up to be a mother whose own children are more likely to survive, be better nourished and go to school themselves. She will be more productive at home and better paid in the workplace. She will be better able to protect herself and her children.—UNICEF
She would have survived neglect and discrimination due to cultural, societal, religious and patriarchal norms and traditions.
Many schools do not have separate toilets for girls and boys, which can lead to girls feeling unsafe and being harassed or even sexually abused.
If she escapes bearing a child while still a child, her chances of surviving into adulthood are greatly increased.
Pregnancy related illnesses are a leading cause of death for young women ages 15 to 19 worldwide.
The adolescent birth rate is highest in sub-Saharan Africa, where the rate of 123 births per 1,000 teenage girls was almost twice that of Latin America and the Caribbean, the second ranked region.— Because I Am A Girl: The State of the World’s Girls 2009 Report
Still, the health and safety risks related growing into a young woman increase.
Far too many children and women are still suffering from the effects of poverty, hunger, preventable diseases and lack of access to clean water and sanitation, adequate health care and schooling. 60% of girls aged 15-19 in sub Saharan Africa are married.
90 per cent of child domestic workers are girls between 12 and 17 years old, and are at risk of both sexual and economic exploitation, violence and abuse. –UNICEF
She would have borne the brunt of two, three, four or more crises-financial, food, fuel,…
Girls’ rights are typically the first to be denied during times of economic crises. Economic hardships often leave girls and families with little or no choice to focus on survival and less on upholding girl’s rights; Young women will pay a heavy price for the current financial meltdown. Evidence from the Asia financial crisis in 1997 showed that many women were forced into the sex trade – as sex workers, escorts and karaoke singers – after they lost their jobs. In Jakarta (Indonesia) alone it is estimated that two to four times more women became sex workers in the year immediately after the crisis. — Because I Am A Girl: The State of the World’s Girls 2009 Report
Recent global estimates indicate that more than 100 million girls are involved in child labour, for example as farm labourers or domestic workers. Cuts in national education budgets and a decline in remittances of migrant workers, which often help to keep children in school, could increase the number of children working.–ILO
Unemployment among parents is often the key obstacle to girls being able to go to school.–UNICEF
Experiencing violence and living in a conflict area make the burden even harder.
In conflict situations, girls’ rights get little attention and are continuously violated. Armed conflict kills and hurts children, disrupts their education, denies them access to much needed health services, and increases poverty, malnutrition and disease.
The impact of being orphans may be especially severe for girls, who are generally more likely than boys not to be in school.26 Children without the guidance and protection of their primary caregivers are more at risk of becoming victims of violence, exploitation, trafficking, discrimination and other abuses resulting in malnutrition, illness, physical and psychosocial trauma, and impaired cognitive and emotional development. Unaccompanied girls are at especially high risk of sexual abuse.–UNICEF
With the clear evidence showing investment in girls brings economic growth, investing in the future economic resources of their countries is a wise move. Yet, each year countries lose billions of dollars because of failing to invest in girls and young women.
There are over 500 million adolescent girls and young women in developing countries who could and should play a crucial part in the next generation’s economic and social development – but many do not have the opportunities for education or worthwhile economic activity. –Because I am a Girl Report
Basic Education and Gender Equality - UNICEF
Violence Against Women and Girls – Message from Michelle Bachelet, UN Women
Featured photo courtesy of Untied Nations Photo.