United Nations International Day of the Girl

Thursday 11 October is the world’s first ever International Day of the Girl, as designated by the United Nations after a sustained campaign led by GCE member, Plan International.

The denial of girls’ rights can have a devastating impact on the lives of not only the girls themselves, but also on the lives of their children and families. While progress has been made towards achieving gender parity in primary schools, with girls now representing 53% of out-of-school children compared to 60% in 2000, the fact remains that millions of girls worldwide face horrific problems, such as discrimination, abuse, neglect, exploitation and violence. A GCE survey released earlier this year found that one in ten primary schoolgirls reported being unhappy to be a girl, doubling to one in five by the time they reach secondary school. Today, a girl under the age of 18 will get married every three seconds – instead of enjoying her childhood and going to school.

A girl who can read can make a vast impact on the lives of her family and her community. For example, a child born to a literate mother is 50% more likely to survive beyond the age of five. If a girl completes basic education, she is three times less likely to contract HIV. Just a 1% increase in the number of girls who complete secondary education can increase annual per capita economic growth by 0.3%.

This week, a 14 year old schoolgirl, Malala Yousefzai, was shot and seriously injured in an attack in Pakistan which targeted her for speaking out for girls’ education and rights. She had previously written for the media, using a pseudonym, following the expulsion of girls from school in a Taliban-controlled area. Fortunately, Malala is recovering and the Pakistani government along with the UN are condemning the actions of the group which carried out this vile attack. However, the group has publicly declared that she remains at risk due to her belief in girls’ education and realisation of rights.

On the International Day of the Girl, GCE, alongside its national, regional and international members, is calling for the right to education for women and girls everywhere to be fully realised. National governments must ensure education budgets are gender-responsive to achieve gender parity in both enrolment and completion rates. School buildings must be safe, hygienic and accessible to ensure girls are able to learn without fear. Discriminatory practices, such as expulsion on the grounds of pregnancy or marriage, must be eradicated.

Plan International has organised a huge number of activities to celebrate International Day of the Girl, with their ‘Because I Am A Girl’ campaign demanding that the rights of girls be fully realised. These include a rock concert in India to the lighting of an Egyptian pyramid in pink – find out more at the Plan International website. You can ‘Raise Your Hand for Girls’ Education’ at their Facebook page.

GCE has also been working with 10×10 on their girls’ education campaign and supporting the development of their upcoming film, Girl Rising. The film focuses on the efforts of ten girls in ten different countries to realise their right to education. You can view the trailer for Girl Rising now and join their network to keep involved in their campaign work and find out more about the launch of the film in 2013.

GCE’s film from early 2012 on discrimination in education can be viewed here.