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.

12 million

girls are married before the age of 18 every year.4

1 in 5

girls is married, or in union, before reaching age 18.4

40 percent

of girls are married before age 18 in the lowest income countries of the world.4

Girls, Menstruation and Human Rights

Human rights are rights that each individual person has because of his or her inherent human dignity.

According to the United Nations Population Fund, menstruation and reproductive health are essential characteristics of human dignity. Being unable to access safe bathing facilities for menstrual hygiene means a girl cannot manage her menstruation with dignity. Plus, menstruation-related teasing, exclusion from public life, social stigma and societal shaming undermine the principle of human dignity.6

What is Period Poverty, and How Does it Affect Girls?

Period poverty refers to how many girls living in poverty lack access to hygiene products. It also includes the increased vulnerability and loss of human rights women and girls experience because of menstruation.

In many cultures, the onset of menstruation signals that girls are ready for marriage or sexual activity, which is a factor in child marriages and sexual violence.

Women and girls can experience negative health consequences if they can’t access menstrual products and facilities (e.g., safe and private washing facilities) to manage their menstrual health.

Being unable to safely manage menstruation can also contribute to school absences and can affect learning and future work opportunities.

How Has the COVID-19 Pandemic Affected Women and Girls?

According to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, “girls have been pushed further off track by the socioeconomic fallout of the pandemic. They remain disproportionately affected, struggling with lost jobs and livelihoods, derailed education, increased burdens of unpaid care work and domestic violence.”

“Women accounted for 39% of total employment in 2019 but 45% of global employment losses in 2020.” — The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2022

How Does Compassion International Empower Girls?

When you sponsor a girl with Compassion International, you directly combat the extra challenges and vulnerabilities girls living in poverty face. You provide educational opportunities through tutoring, mentoring and vocational training, giving her skills that lead to greater economic opportunities in the future. Your sponsorship also covers school fees, uniforms and supplies that enable her to remain in school.

And the child development center she attends offers her safe and private sanitation facilities. She gains access to medical care, health and hygiene training, protection from gender-based violence and danger, nutritious food and supplements, and the opportunity to hear about Jesus Christ and be encouraged to develop a lifelong relationship with God.

Child sponsorship, one of the most effective strategies for helping girls living in poverty,7 offers girls:

  • Greater awareness of their rights.
  • Improved confidence in their abilities.
  • Greater mental health, stronger self-worth and sound self-esteem.
  • Goals and ambitions beyond societal expectations and current norms.
  • Key life skills training and vocational opportunities.
  • An opportunity for equality in the workforce.
  • The ability to help forge a gender-equal world.
  • A life beyond illiteracy and poverty for her children.

Sponsorship offers girls the chance to be change-makers in their families and communities.

Help create a world where girls lead, drive change and live free from gender inequality. Sponsor a girl today!

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Have Questions About Compassion and How We Work?

Donating to a charity is an important decision. So when you’re passionate about a cause and want to make a difference, we encourage you to do your research. Compassion is 100% committed to financial integrity, stewardship and using each dollar wisely. If you have any questions about Compassion or exactly how your donation will be used, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

1. “Women and the Sustainable Development Goals (Sdgs).” UN Women – Headquarters, https://www.unwomen.org/en/news/in-focus/women-and-the-sdgs.

2. “Why Educating Girls Makes Economic Sense. Global Partnership for Education. www.globalpartnership.org/blog/why-educating-girls-makes-economic-sense.

3. “International Day of the Girl Child 2012.” UN Women – Headquarters, https://www.unwomen.org/en/news/in-focus/girl-child/2012.

4. “Child and Forced Marriage, Including in Humanitarian Settings.” OHCHR, https://www.ohchr.org/en/women/child-and-forced-marriage-including-humanitarian-settings.

5. “Child Marriage.” UNICEF DATA, 19 Sept. 2022, https://data.unicef.org/topic/child-protection/child-marriage/.

6. “Menstruation and Human Rights - Frequently Asked Questions.” United Nations Population Fund, https://www.unfpa.org/menstruationfaq.

7. Wydick, Bruce. "Cost-Effective Compassion: The 10 Most Popular Strategies for Helping the Poor." Christianity Today. www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2012/february/popular-strategies-helping-the-poor.html Accessed 17 February 2012


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