The International Day of the Girl is celebrated every October 11. It was established on December 19, 2011, in an effort to acknowledge the struggles that girls worldwide continue to face. It also aims to address these issues and provide girls with a better future.
Recent Advancements in Girls’ Rights
In the past few years, there has been a move toward ensuring that girls are guaranteed their rights. Goal 5 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), for instance, is committed to “[achieving] gender equality.” Prior to the SDGs, however, was the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action in 1995. This document explicitly addresses the challenges that girls encounter such as having gender roles imposed on them by “their parents, teachers, peers and the media.” Since the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action in 1995, girls have seen eight years added to their life expectancy. Moreover, from 1998 to 2018, there has been a reduction in girls’ dropout rates.
Protecting the Girl Child and Why It’s Important
Regardless, barriers to girls’ empowerment persist to this day. Currently, approximately 10 million girls are “at risk of child marriage.” This was exacerbated by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic during which numerous families faced, and continue to face, economic hardships. Girls also face higher chances of being sexually exploited. In the eyes of the law, girls are seen as inferior to boys. For example, a majority of countries have discriminatory land inheritance laws that put girls at a disadvantage.
Research shows that having a stable education early on significantly affects girls’ futures. Girls that attain secondary education, for instance, have a lower chance of marrying and getting pregnant at a young age. Furthermore, they “earn twice as much” as women who do not receive an education. It is crucial, therefore, to empower girls in order to improve their future prospects.
What Else Can Be Done?
The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action outline several recommendations for improving the lives of girls. Governments are urged to support non-governmental organizations that work to dismantle harmful beliefs that perpetuate gender inequality. It also suggests setting up “education programs” that raise awareness of the challenges that girls face and help them to “acquire knowledge, develop self-esteem and take responsibility for their own lives.” These can include workshops for parents and caregivers that aim to change their gender biases. More resources should also be directed toward providing girls with scholarships to ensure that they can continue their education. Eradicating gender equality is far from over but the International Day of the Girl Child highlights how efforts must start with providing girls with a secure childhood.
– Isabelle Amurao
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