Also called the Day of Girls and the the International Day of the Girl, the International Day of the Girl Child was first declared by the United Nations on 11 October 2012 to increase awareness of the gender inequality faced by girls worldwide and support more opportunity for girls. The inequality faced by girls include areas such as access to education, nutrition, legal rights, medical care, and protection from discrimination, violence against women and forced child marriage. The celebration of the day also reflects the successful emergence of girls and young women as a distinct cohort in development policy, programming, campaigning and research.
In 1995, before the girls of today were even born,the fourth World Conference on Women made history for the women’s rights agenda with the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action was adopted, the most visionary blueprint for the empowerment of women and girls. The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action is the most progressive blueprint ever for advancing the rights of not only women but girls. Now, about half a century later, the Platform for Action remains a powerful foundation for assessing progress on gender equality. It calls for a world where every girl and woman can realize all her rights, such as to live free from violence, to attend and complete school, to choose when and whom she marries, and to earn equal pay for equal work. The Platform for Action specifically calls on the global community to eliminate all forms of discrimination against girls; eliminate negative cultural attitudes and practices against girls; promote and protect the rights of girls and increase awareness of their needs and potential; eliminate discrimination against girls in education, skills development and training; eliminate discrimination against girls in health and nutrition; eliminate the economic exploitation of child labour and protect young girls at work; eradicate violence against girls; promote girls’ awareness of and participation in social, economic and political life and strengthen the role of the family in improving the status of girls.
The International Day of the Girl increases awareness of issues faced by girls around the world. Many of the global development plans do not include or consider girls, and their issues have become “invisible.” More than 62 million girls around the world had no access to education, as of 2014, according to USAID. Worldwide and collectively, girls ages 5 to 14 spend more than 160 million hours more on household chores than boys of the same age do. Globally, one in four girls are married before the age of 18. Each year, 12 million girls under 18 are married; 130 million girls worldwide are still out of school; and approximately 15 million adolescent girls aged 15-19 have experience forced sex. The International Day of the Girl Child helps to raise awareness not only of the issues that girls face, but also of what is likely to happen when these problems are solved. For example, educating girls helps reduce the rate of child marriage, disease and helps strengthen the economy by helping girls have access to higher paying jobs.
This day began as a project of Plan International, a non-governmental organisation that operates worldwide through their “Because I Am a Girl” campaign, which raised awareness on the importance of nurturing girls globally and in developing countries in particular. Awareness for the initiative grew internationally and soon the United Nations got involved in this campaign which finally became the International Day of the Girl Child with the inaugural day on October 11, 2012.
The resolution states that the Day of Girls recognises the empowerment of and investment in girls, which are critical for economic growth, the achievement of all Millennium Development Goals, including the eradication of poverty and extreme poverty, as well as the meaningful participation of girls in decisions that affect them, are key in breaking the cycle of discrimination and violence and in promoting and protecting the full and effective enjoyment of their human rights, and recognizing also that empowering girls requires their active participation in decision-making processes and the active support and engagement of their parents, legal guardians, families and care providers, as well as boys and men and the wider community.
Each year’s Day of Girls has a theme; the theme for this year’s celebrations is “My voice, our equal future” where girls, especially adolescent girls will focus their their demands to live free from gender-based violence, harmful practices, and HIV and AIDS; learn new skills towards the futures they choose and lead as a generation of activists accelerating social change
If you want to get involved in the International Day of the Girl Child, you can do so by sharing stories of inspiring adolescent girls or girl-led organisations who are developing innovative solutions or leading efforts towards positive social change, including gender equality, in their communities and nations. Let’s amplify their leadership, actions and impact to inspire others. You can also participate in a youth-led digital activation which will be launched on the 11th. This will be led by young people across the world who are developing a digital activism campaign, aiming to raise the diversity of girls’ voices and their vision for a reimagined future.