Girls play multiple roles in the household, society and the economy. They go to school, help with housework, work in factories, make friends, care for elder and younger family members and prepare themselves to take on the responsibilities of adulthood. While today, in many countries, the right to basic education is ingrained in their constitutions, there are many countries where girls are denied this right and even when girls are encouraged to continue their education, they face major challenges that make it difficult for them to attend regularly, sometimes receiving an unequal share of the household tasks due to customary practices in many regions of the world. Though life for the girl child is steadily improving, many are still subjected to horrific practices, such as female genital mutilation, son preference – often resulting in female infanticide – as well as child marriage, sexual exploitation and abuse. Girls are also more likely to experience discrimination in food allocation and healthcare, and are often outpaced and outranked by boys in all spheres of life. It is under this backdrop that upholding the rights of a girl child is not just important, it is absolutely essential.
Today is the International Day of the Girl Child which is also known as the Day of Girls and the International Day of the Girl and was first observed in 2012. The day supports more opportunity for girls and increases awareness of gender inequality faced by girls worldwide based upon their gender including areas such as access to education, nutrition, legal rights, medical care, and protection from discrimination, violence against women and forced child marriage. The day increases awareness of issues faced by girls around the world which do not include or consider girls and and their issues become invisible. The Day of Girls helps raise awareness not only of the issues that girls face, but also of what is likely to happen when those problems are solved.
Around 33,000 girls are married off every day around the world, focing their bodies and mind to changes in ways they are just not ready for. An estimated 340,000 girls and young women are infected with the HIV virus every year and currently more than 3 million girls and young women are living with the virus all over the world. Around 44% of the girls between 15 to 19 years of age think it’s okay for a husband to beat his wife. Girls between five to 14 spend more than 28 hours doing labor, which is twice the time spent by boys and do more unpaid child labour and not astonishingly 96% of human trafficked individuals for sexual exploitation are girls and women.
The theme for the 2021 edition of the International Day of the Girl Child is Digital generation. Our generation. In 2021, the Generation Equality Forum launched five-year commitments for bolder solutions to gender inequality – just as the world entered the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic. While the pandemic has accelerated digital platforms for learning, earning and connecting, some 2.2 billion people below the age of 25 still do not have internet access at home. Girls are more likely to be cut off. The gender gap for global internet users grew from 11 per cent in 2013 to 17 per cent in 2019. In the world’s least developed countries, it hovers around 43 per cent. But the gender digital divide is about more than connectivity. Girls are also less likely than boys to use and own devices, and gain access to tech-related skills and jobs. Only by addressing the inequity and exclusion that span geographies and generations can we usher in a digital revolution for all, with all.
So why is this day important? It is important because it empowers girls and works to eliminate deep-rooted gender-based issues that have have been passed on for generations and have made gender-based discrimination and oppression threateningly common in every household, particularly in developing countries. An empowered girl grows up to be an empowered woman. The adolescence is a critical point in every person’s life and determines the trajectory of girls’ lives, which is why caring for girls in their youth benefits all. If they are empowered at a vulnerable age, they can mature into liberated, wise women of the future and when this happens, as a society, we all win. Investing in girls is the smart thing to do because when women and girls earn an income, they are likely to reinvest 90% of their income into their families. So empower girls around you, so they can grow up to be empowered women who will be an asset to society.