On December 19, 2011, the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 66/170 to declare October 11th as the International Day of the Girl Child. This day aims to recognize girls’ rights and the unique challenges girls face around the world. This year’s theme was centered on Empowering Adolescent Girls to end the cycle of violence. As an avid human rights activist and a champion of all things girl empowerment, this day holds special significance and sentimental value to me especially when I think of the 250 Million adolescent girls who live in poverty globally! Being a girl in several contexts of our world comes with its own numerous challenges and it is very unfortunate that the mainstream media does not articulate their plight and also because of the unspoken social contract that exists between classes which results in some of us turning a blind eye to such obvious atrocities.
You would be surprised to know that in some places today, upon reaching puberty most girls will be married off as child brides and will be forced to stop any formal education and will be required to bear children when they are not ready physically, emotionally and mentally. Most of these child brides do not get to choose whom they marry as that decision is made for them sometime even before she can even walk or talk. This cycle exposes her to numerous health complications such as fistulae, HIV & AIDS, STIs, domestic violence and even death during childbirth. It is estimated that in a year, 15 million girls aged below 18 years are married worldwide. In developing worlds one in seven girls is married before her 15th birthday.
There is a growing recognition that harmful traditional beliefs and practices such as early and forced marriage underscore violence and discrimination against girls. Other forms of traditionally condoned forms of discrimination’s that are rampantly practiced include: son preference; and female genital mutilation (FGM), honor killings, bride burning, and wife inheritance, to name but a few. Even more shocking is the plague of sex trafficking cartels that kidnap girls and force them into prostitution in several regions of the world especially widespread in Cambodia and in most other South-East Asian countries.
Around the world, according to Amnesty International and other reputable sources including the World Bank and WHO, at least one in every three females has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime. Our socialization process and with these evident prevalent violence occurrence against girls and women results not surprisingly to the mistaken belief that spousal violence in any form is justifiable. Every year, violence in the home and the community devastates the lives of millions of girls and women. Violence against girls and women is rooted in a global culture of discrimination, which denies females equal rights with men and which legitimizes the appropriation of women’s bodies for individual gratification or political ends.
Having an international day of the Girl Child first and far most recognizes these human rights violations and attempts to clamor support and momentum around just causes such as the Girl Declaration http://www.girleffect.org/media/139917/declaration_document_web_v6_26_9_13_copy.pdf and the Girl Generation which is an Africa-led movement to end female genital mutilation (FGM) in one generation among other noble causes to fight for women and girls rights and freedoms. As you go about your day, week and year, I urge you to occasionally reflect on how you can turn girls oppressions into opportunity and to be present to your thoughts, actions and words which may have building or distractive effects to the next generation of young girls and women!