Because I am a girl I’ll get fewer chances at every stage of life.
Because I am a girl I’m likely to be trapped in poverty, subjected to violence and have my sexual rights controlled by others. I may get forced to marry someone two, three or even four times my age.
Because I am a girl I am too easy to ignore.” – Frida Pinto
Around about one year ago, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution which launched the ‘International Day of the Girl’- the first of which was celebrated last month on the 11th October. The purpose of this being to recognise the value of investing in girls and promoting awareness of the challenges that are exclusive to girls in accessing education, health care and economic opportunity.
“Why not an international Day of the Boy too?” was the questioned posed by many on twitter and facebook last month. The simple answer being that girls are still valued less than boys. While girls have made considerable progress in recent years, the facts remain and speak for themselves: two-thirds of the 130 million children worldwide who are not in school are girls; more than 25,000 girls under the age of 18 are married every day; and in the developing world over 30% of girls are married before they reach 18.
The idea is that each year will focus-in on a separate issue; this year’s being the eradication of child marriage. This is because it is a major contributing factor to girls being at greater risk of poverty. Child marriage also increases the chances of health complications resulting from teenage pregnancy. Furthermore, about 100-140 million girls and women worldwide have undergone some form of Female Genital Mutilation. Aside from the emotional distress that has resulted from FGM, this practice can also cause serious reproductive problems including infertility and increases the risk of child mortality.
Raising the status of girls cannot be achieved by waving a magic wand; there is no miraculous fix. What is needed are enduring investments in education for girls, improved access to health and sanitation, support for women’s economic and political empowerment.
Investing in educating girls is proven to not only return huge economic growth, political participation and women’s health but also helps produce smaller and more sustainable families and can even help prevent disease. According to a new report for the Council’s Centre for Universal Education written by Gene Sperling, former national economic advisor to the US government: ‘educating girls is one of the most cost-effective interventions that can be made.’ Every extra year of primary education means a 10-20% increase in earnings and for every extra year of secondary education it is a 15-25% increase.
Another recent report by the World Bank shows that increasing the number of women who complete secondary education by a mere 1% increases annual capita income growth by 3%; a triple return on investment!
The UN received much backing and support from charities, NGOs, corporations and a long list of celebrities. ‘The International Day of the Girl’ has tremendous potential to make real change through raising awareness and rallying support and increasing investment in girls.
Efforts encouraged by the ‘International Day of the Girl’ will go a long way in fulfilling the needs of girls and young women but lasting commitments are necessary to close unrelenting gender gaps alongside increase the rights and enrich the well-being of millions of girls worldwide.