Events such as Women’s History Month are created to highlight the accomplishments of women, the injustices they face, and what actions the world can take to bridge these systemic gaps of inequality. International Day of the Girl is another one of the opportunities to take action towards building a brighter future for young girls while recognizing the trials girls face around the world.
Learn more about the origins of this international movement and discover how you can participate this year and every year.
The Origins of International Day of the Girl
In 1995 at a World Conference on Women hosted by Beijing, the countries present unanimously voted in favor of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. This plan progressively created a plan to advance the rights of women and young girls. It’s the first of its kind to specifically advocate for girls, not just women. It recognized that young girls specifically face their own unique struggles and experience violations of their human rights. Sexism does not begin when a girl becomes a woman, but when, and sometimes before, she is born.
In 2011, the United Nations declared October 11th the International Day of the Girl Child, further promoting the work done at the World Conference on Women by designating a day to recognize the legal and systemic disparities and promote action.
Every year on October 11th, UNICEF recognizes the holiday created by the UN by launching a unique campaign to lift up the voices of young girls and make strides towards expanding their rights.
This day specifically focuses on the needs of young girls so they can fully access the same human rights as their male counterparts. It focuses on empowering young girls and removing the systemic roadblocks in their way to success and autonomy.
The Importance of International Day of the Girl
Around the world, girls face significantly more hurdles than boys. Some injustices they experience vary country by country, but others are experienced regardless of location. Whether they experience passive acts of sexism in the classroom or are scarred by female genital mutilation (FGM), they need to work harder than boys and overcome more hurdles just to receive the same credit.
Girls of color and girls living with disabilities are at a greater risk of marginalization and being left behind due to microaggressions, overt acts of racism, a lack of accessibility, or intentional discrimination against the other-abled.
Girls worldwide experience acts of sexism and discrimination both legally and culturally. These instances include:
- Child marriage
- Rape and sexual violence
- Legalized domestic violence and marital rape
- Restricted healthcare access
- Not being able to legally drive
- Expectations to bear children and become a housewife
- Limited access to education
- Testimony offered in court by a woman is worth half of a man’s testimony
- Being legally banned from or systemically underrepresented in certain employment industries
- Receiving half the inheritance of a male heir
- Imprisonment for wearing the wrong clothing
While looking at laws around the world that show legalized acts of sexism, certain global events can illuminate inequalities that live in the shadows.
While women and girls experience discrimination and setbacks every year, 2020 brought more challenges than anticipated. The COVID-19 crisis impacted women as they were expected to become caregivers for children schooled from home. This setback will impact their careers for the rest of their lives as they gave up jobs and opportunities to stay home and act as the caregiver. It devastated communities of color with a higher number of cases with less resources available for treatment. Black and Latino people were four to nine times more likely to contract COVID-19 than their white counterparts.
All girls, regardless of race, religion, sexuality, or country of origin, have the right to safety, education, and health, both as young and adolescent girls and as adult women.
When a culture diminishes the value of a woman, they not only infringe on her rights and dignity, but they surrender opportunities to improve as a nation.
Young girls have the potential to make scientific discoveries, lead nations into times of peace, write breathtaking novels, create compelling documentaries, start groundbreaking new businesses, construct safer buildings, develop more sustainable ways to use energy, and achieve anything they set their minds to. When you only give half of the children in your country the opportunity to learn and grow, you severely diminish your country’s potential.
When countries invest in their young girls, they invest in their future.
How You Can Participate
Every year, UNICEF releases a new campaign for the year. They choose specific inequalities to highlight and develop ways for young girls to showcase their potential. Each year has a new theme that helps them shift focus to the most pressing topics of the year.
Regardless of the theme, the campaign’s goal is to amplify the voices of young girls so they can advocate for their own advancement.
To participate, it’s your job to listen and follow the lead of the girls speaking out. With their consent, share their stories and testimonies on social media, and think about ways you can lift up the young girls in your life.
Could you donate to a local extracurricular program for girls in your area? Maybe you could start a Girls on the Run team in your neighborhood? Or perhaps you could advocate bringing Girls Who Code to your local school district? A great way to capitalize on the potential of young girls is to give them opportunities to learn in an environment that will help them thrive.
While it’s great to give to international organizations, it’s also extremely important to be an activist and ally in your own community.
Celebrate Girls All Year Long
International Day of the Girl is just a starting point. It’s supposed to be a special day that recognizes a movement that should be actively working 365 days a year.
When we give young girls the microphone, they become the voice our equal future needs to thrive.
Let’s create a world free from gender-based violence and give young girls a platform for action to take place. There are global movements taking place to give girls and young women the opportunities and equal access they need to thrive.
How can you start a revolution in your community to make sure your neighborhood is raising empowered girls?
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