On October 11, 2014 the world commemorated the United Nations International Day of the Girl Child. This year’s theme is “Empowering Adolescent Girls: Ending the Cycle of Violence.”
On this day we honor and celebrate the Peruvian girl, the American girl, the Chinese girl, the Iranian girl, the Sudanese girl and every girl everywhere. Today we honor and celebrate ALL girls from every country, culture and community.
In this patriarchal world society, the challenges for girls are endless and overwhelming to even talk about. However I feel very compelled to include here just a few of the many struggles that women and girls are forced to live with everyday and everywhere.
October 11, 2014 marks 179 days since 276 Nigerian schoolgirls were taken in the middle of the night from their school in Chibok, Nigeria by armed terrorists.
In August 2014 in Iraq, Islamic Fighters (ISIS) kidnapped about 500 women and girls and sold many of them into sexual slavery or gave them to ISIS fighters as “gifts.”
In India it is even dangerous and life threatnening for a girl to go to the bathroom.
In Peru, a girl faces the danger of being trafficked for sex and labor in the Amazon.
In the United States, 1 out of every 6 women have been the victim of an attempted or completed rape/sexual assault in her lifetime.
In South Africa, there are 3.5 million women and girls ages 15 and up living with HIV. This number represents about half of all HIV/AIDS cases in South Africa. Gender based physical and sexual violence contribute to high HIV/AIDS rates in women and girls in South Africa, as well as sub-Saharan Africa as a whole.
In El Salvador, a woman or a girl can be imprisoned for suffering from a miscarriage.
Right now, there are about 62 million girls globally that do not attend school. We are talking about 62 million young girls around the world that are not given the opportunity to earn an education to better themselves and their families. We are talking about 62 million girls around the world that do not have the power to make decisions about their future, or compete in the job market as educated women. How can we build healthy, strong and vibrant communities when our girls are not given the opportunity to pursue their education and follow their dreams?
Right now, 1/3 of the world’s girls are married by the age of 18. Many girls are married by age 15. Marriage at such an early age for a girl keeps her from being able to pursue her education and discover the world on her own terms.
Right now, there are about 125 million women and girls alive today that have endured female genital mutilation. Female Genital Mutilation is a medical procedure globally recognized as a violation of the human rights of women and girls.
I could go on, but it is just too painful to do so. Instead I will take a few moments to talk about the good.
I woke up on Friday morning, October 10th to learn the most exciting news: Malala Yousafzai had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. She is the symbol of strength, humility, and perseverance for girls globally. She speaks for all girls and her story has motivated and inspired many world citizens to stand up and support and advocate for the rights of women and girls. In my eyes she is a soul rebel and one to model. Even though Pakistan still struggles with the imbalances of gender discrimination and gender based violence, Malala is a true symbol of hope for her country and for the global community.
U.S. President Barack Obama has issued a Presidential Proclamation in recognition of the International Day of the Girl Child. I feel encouraged and hopeful that the United States will continue to work to end gender discrimination and gender based violence here at home and encourage an end globally.
There are so many international and domestic non-governmental organization (NGOs) that are dedicated specifically to the upliftment and empowerment of women and girls. For this I am very grateful.
Journalists, activists, politicians and other influential world citizens are speaking out and encouraging all of us to use our voice to demand that the dignity of women and girls be honored and respected. Nick Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and Vice-President Joe Biden easily come to mind.
Moving forward, world recognition and positive action on behalf of the girl child brings me hope. May we all continue to stand up and fight for the dignity and rights of all women and girls.