Today, October 11, is the International Day of the Girl, a day declared by the United Nations in 2011 to raise awareness about all issues concerning gender inequality around the world.  It’s a day when activist groups come together under the same goal to highlight, discuss, and take action to advance rights and opportunities for girls everywhere. Fast forward to today and the International Day of the Girl has become a global movement of hope, inspiration and advocacy to better the lives of half our planet who is being left behind.

Each year the United Nations selects a theme. The theme for 2018 is “With Her: A Skilled GirlForce”. Per the UN:

Today’s generation of girls are preparing to enter a world of work that is being transformed by innovation and automation. Educated and skilled workers are in great demand, but roughly a quarter of young people – most of them female – are currently neither employed or in education or training.

Of the 1 billion young people – including 600 million adolescent girls – that will enter the workforce in the next decade, more than 90% of those living in developing countries will work in the informal sector, where low or no pay, abuse and exploitation are common.

On 11 October, International Day of the Girl, we are working alongside all girls to expand existing learning opportunities, chart new pathways and calling on the global community to rethink how to prepare them for a successful transition into the world of work.

Under the theme, With Her: A Skilled GirlForce, International Day of the Girl will mark the beginning of a year-long effort to bring together partners and stakeholders to advocate for, and draw attention and investments to, the most pressing needs and opportunities for girls to attain skills for employability.

Source: www.un.org/en/events/girlchild/

Preparing a new generation of skilled female workers will be an enormous undertaking to say the least. There are tremendous challenges that girls living in poverty and crisis face in the areas of education, health, safety and violence, discrimination and lack of opportunity. These obstacles hold girls back and harm us all. When we don’t utilize half of our population, we are all missing out. Girls hold an enormous source of energy, power and creativity in their voices and passion to make their lives and communities better.

A girl with an education is a supergirl — she can change her future and her community. She can even change the world. -UNICEF

While I was in Kenya last February with LifeStraw, I witnessed firsthand the resilient perseverance of girls when it comes to getting an education and improving their lives. Some of these girls walked hours and worked all day and night just to receive an education knowing very well what it could do for their future and their family.

These girls were as curious about me as I was about them. As I left the group assembly to check out the school they shyly followed me and asked my name and questions about America. I asked if I could interview them to learn about their dreams for the future. Here is what they had to say. 

Yet, more than 130 million girls are out of school around the world today.  Think about that loss of potential for these girls and society as a whole. It has been proven that keeping girls in school will have a ripple effect throughout their community by delaying an early marriage, childbirth and allowing girls to enter the workforce to escape poverty.

Photos of me with the kids in Kenya during the LifeStraw Follow the Liters Campaign. 

Girl Up, an advocacy group run by and for girls, supports United Nations programs promoting the health, safety, education, and leadership of girls in developing countries. Girl Up also is a tremendous resource providing facts and information on the unique challenges that girls around the world face.

Following is a shortened list of statistics provided by Girl Up that highlight some of these challenges (to see full list of visit the link next to each topic):

Education:

Over 130 million girls are out of school and in many countries over half of girls drop out of school before 6th grade. There are many barriers that prevent girls from going to school and if a family has a choice between sending a girl or a boy, the boy is almost always sent.

Health:

Child marriage is still an enormous problem for girls around the world with over 700 million women alive today being married before their 18th birthday. This means girls are leaving school and having children before their bodies are physically ready. Tragically, almost 14 million girls aged 15 to 19 give birth each year and maternal mortality is the second leading cause of death among girls aged 15-19.

LifeStraw1million Campaign Kenya

The youngest child at the school, age 3, takes her first sip of safe water

Safety and Violence:

Girls are impacted significantly by violence. About 70 million girls (one-fourth of girls worldwide) have said they were victims of physical violence by the age of 15.

Leadership:

The majority of girls time is spent working at home or in unpaid jobs compared to boys, leaving girls far behind in the necessary skills to enter the workforce. This is a huge loss for girls and society as a whole since statistics show that girls and women reinvest 90% of their income back into their homes creating a ripple effect of increased prosperity throughout their community.

Being Counted: 

Per Girl Up, every year over 51 million children under the age of five are not registered at birth and this impacts girls far more than boys who are more likely to live in poverty and not go to school or receive the support they need.

Being counted means having birth certifications and registrations to ensure you are counted towards important governmental censuses and programs providing funding for education, healthcare and more. There is an enormous lack of data on girls and women around the world meaning they are not being counted and not receiving these important services.

Today, I will think of all the amazing, creative, smart and fantastic girls I’ve had the honor to meet around the world in my travels. I will never stop fighting or advocating for them.

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4 comments

  1. Excellent work. Education, training and opportunity go a long way toward encouraging one to press ahead and excell, helping to eliminate inequality.

    1. Thank you! As a mother of a daughter I see how fortunate she is to have been born in a place where she can go to school and reach her full potential. So many girls don’t even get that opportunity. Thanks so much for reading.

      1. So true. Many of the ones with these opportunities don’t appreciate it. Others around the world literally die to obtain the opportunity. Yes, we are fortunate. I want all children (particularly girls) around the world to have equal opportunity. The world would certainly be better.

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