Today is the International day of the girl child. This was established by the United Nations in 2012 to support and empower girls across the globe to address and combat issues such as child marriage, inequality and gender-based violence. 2018’s theme is helping girls overcome adversity. According to UNICEF, 600 million adolescent girls will enter the workforce and 90% of those living in developing countries will go on to experience abuse and exploitation. 2018’s campaign is therefore called ‘With Her: A Skilled GirlForce” – a year-long effort to foster and encourage female entrepreneurship and provide young women the tools they need to carve their career paths.
Each year has a different theme. The first year’s theme was to end child marriage. For the second year, it was to innovate girls’ education. There are so many issues that these campaigns can address including greater medical care, legal support and education/work for girls in developing countries. These challenges and more are gaining more exposure via social media. That is not to say that these problems still do not exist, but this initiative helps to highlight the prevalence of these issues and inspire others to act. Hopefully it also helps to start the conversation at the governmental level.
For every Malala Yousafzai, there is a girl who will be wed prematurely and become pregnant by the age of 15, without a chance of a better life – a life led on her terms. There will be a girl who will be told she is not smart enough or brave enough to tackle a certain area of work. There will be a girl whose family cannot afford to send her to school, and she therefore cannot continue her secondary education. This inequality does not end at childhood nor is it prevalent only in developing countries. Most girls are made to think that boys are really brilliant at STEM related fields and therefore girls tend to shy away from jobs where skilled workers are truly in demand. What therefore the GirlForce initiative does is to find partners and stakeholders to advocate for and invest in girls to attain skills that lead to employment.
Some organizations that bring these issues to light and help battle them are the Malala Fund, She’s the First and Girls Not Brides. Despite awareness, things are far from changing. Whether it be female feticide, dowry-related deaths, sexual/physical abuse, being forced into prostitution, female genital mutilation, or curtailing women’s freedom, the issues are manifold and so deep-rooted within cultures, that eradication will take a generation, if not more, or perhaps not at all. Depressing as it may sound, the only possible escape is education and employment and the hope for a better life.
Here’s to change, here’s to enlightenment and here’s to hopes, dreams and more power to girls.