Why an International Day for Girls?
In Europe and beyond, girls face daily the double discrimination of being children and being female. The creation of an UN ‘International Day of the Girl’ would provide a powerful tool with which to focus the world’s attention on the particular challenges faced by girls.
Although girls and boys are entitled to the same human rights, girls face greater barriers in accessing them. Across the world, research has shown that girls are less likely to be enrolled in school, have less access to medical care and are more likely to suffer from malnutrition. They experience more violence and sexual harassment and are more likely to be forced into an early marriage, be trafficked, sold or coerced into the sex trade, or become infected with HIV.
Did you know:
Pregnancy is the leading cause of death for girls between the ages of 15 and 19 in developing countries, with girls who give birth before the age of 15 five times more likely to die in childbirth than women in their twenties;
Girls under 16 years old are the victims of approximately 50 per cent of sexual assaults worldwide;
More than 80 million girls in developing countries were married before their 18th birthday, without their consent;
Young women have a significantly higher risk for becoming infected with the HIV virus, with nearly two-thirds of new infections worldwide occurring in young women between 15 and 24 years old.
As a result of their diminished social status, girls are often forced to suffer this injustice in silence. Discrimination against girls and women is one of the main underlying causes of child poverty, yet we know that investing in girls and young women has a disproportionately beneficial effect on alleviating poverty.
The UN ‘International Day of the Girl’ would serve as a global reminder of the particular challenges girls face, but it would also provide a unique opportunity to celebrate their potential as powerful agents of change within their own families, communities and nations. It can help drive economic growth and poverty reduction, the benefits of which would be felt not only by the girls themselves but by their families, their communities and their countries. Everyone benefits, including men and boys.
There is no tool for development more effective than the education of girls. If we want to succeed in our efforts to build a more healthy, peaceful and equitable world, the classrooms of the world have to be filled with girls as well as boys.