What is the International Day of the Girl Child?
The International Day of the Girl Child is observed annually on October 11. Celebrated around the world, this day of advocacy:
- Promotes girls’ human rights.
- Calls attention to gender inequalities that exist between girls and boys.
- Raises awareness about the discrimination and abuse girls suffer simply because they’re female.
- Highlights the importance of empowering girls for the benefit of all.
The United Nations General Assembly established the Day of the Girl Child with Resolution 66/170 on December 19, 2011, to support the global movement for girls’ empowerment. Today, the struggles adolescent girls and young women face could not be more urgent.
“Gender equality is a right. Fulfilling this right is the best chance we have in meeting some of the most pressing challenges of our time … Women are not only more affected by these problems, but also possess ideas and leadership to solve them. The gender discrimination still holding too many women back, holds our world back too.” — UN Women1
Why is the International Day of the Girl Child Important?
Around the world, girls face obstacles and challenges that boys don’t. Girls do not have equal access to education, training, technology or other resources. They experience adversity and discrimination in the workforce. They are subject to a disproportionate amount of gender-based violence, including sexual and physical violence, child marriage, exploitation and trafficking.
The extent of this gender inequality compromises their prospects and often locks girls into a generational cycle of poverty.
The International Day of the Girl Child raises awareness about these issues and directs attention to the global efforts to “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls” (United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 5).
Why is Achieving Gender Equality Important?
Women make up 49.6% of the world population, nearly half the world. The discrimination, violence and injustice women are forced to endure in their personal and professional lives undermines society and deprives it of considerable potential in business, science, the arts and government.
According to The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2022, the global share of women in lower and single houses of national parliaments is 26.2%. This is higher than in past years, but the years of progress made aren’t sufficient for today’s young people. The current pace of improvement means it will take at least 40 years for women and men to be equally represented in government decision-making.
Providing women and girls with equal access to education, health care, employment opportunities, political representation and economic influence benefits everyone. Gender equality matters because, without it, our full human potential cannot be realized.
How Does Education Help Achieve Gender Equality?
Educating girls has benefits that extend beyond an improved standard of living for the girl alone.
An educated girl makes her entire community and nation stronger economically. The Global Partnership for Education states that for every 1% increase in females going to school, a nation sees a 0.3% average increase in its Gross Domestic Product (GDP).2
Additionally, according to the World Bank, for every year of secondary education a girl completes, she reduces her chance of marrying before age 18 by 5% or more. “Preventing child marriage protects girls’ rights and helps reduce the risks of violence, early pregnancy, HIV infection, and maternal death and disability.”3
How Does Child Marriage Affect Girls?
Child marriage (i.e., marriage before the age of 18) is a fundamental violation of human rights. Child marriage often compromises a girl’s development with early and frequent pregnancy and childbirth, resulting in higher-than-average maternal morbidity and mortality rates.4
It also contributes to her social isolation, interferes with schooling, limits opportunities for career and vocational advancement and places her at risk of domestic violence.”5
Child and forced marriage may also lead women and girls to flee their communities or commit suicide to escape the marriage.5
According to the United Nations, a forced marriage is one in which at least one of the parties has not fully and freely agreed to the union, and child marriage is considered a form of forced marriage.5
Why is Child Marriage an Issue?
Families in poverty sometimes view marriage as a means to financial security. With limited resources, parents often choose to invest in a boy’s primary and secondary school before investing in a girl’s education. Many cultures devalue women and place them socially, politically and economically below men. Such cultures impose a social pressure on families to marry off their girls.
Other factors include family honor, cultural and religious beliefs that condone the practice, and inadequate legal protections for girls and women.