World Observes the International Day of the Girl

President Obama talking with six-year old girl scouts from Tulsa, Oklahoma at the White House. Image Credit: White House
World Observes the International Day of the Girl
Denise Recalde

Today is International Day of the Girl – a day first recognized in 2011 by the United Nations General Assembly. The global institution voted to establish the International Day of the Girl on October 11 as a day to think about the rights of girls around the world, or rather, their lack of rights, and to share inspiration.

This year’s celebration is on the theme “Girls’ Progress = Goals’ Progress: What Counts for Girls.” The theme calls for an increased investment in collecting and analyzing girl-relevant data.

In the United States, President Barack Obama released a statement about the International Day of the Girl that discussed the common societal goals of having more young women study and work in the traditionally male-dominated fields of science, technology, engineering and math, fight for equal pay with men in the workplace and push for campaigns against sexual assault on university campuses.

“This is the future we are forging: Where women and girls, no matter what they look like or where they are from, can live free from the fear of violence. A future where all girls know they can hold any job, run any company, and compete in any field,” Obama said in the statement. “Let us keep working to build a world that is more just and free — because nothing should stand in the way of strong girls with bold dreams.”

International Day of the Girl is not just about girl power — it’s about boosting global initiatives to improve rights for girls. In some nations, the situation is dire.

One in three girls in developing countries, except China, is forced to marry before turning 18, which amounts to 47,700 girls a day. One in seven is married by the age of 15. Sub-Saharan Africa is the region with the highest rates of child marriage. There, around 40% of girls are married by the age of 18, and 12.5% by age 15. Latin America, the Caribbean, the Middle East and North Africa are also regions with notable rates of child marriage.

Child marriage not only exposes girls to physical violence, including sexual violence, but it keeps them from pursuing an education and a career. Her right to make her own choices in life ends.

Some 31 million school-aged girls aren’t allowed to go to school because of their gender. Only 30% of girls around the world are enrolled in high school. In the United States, more than 90 percent of teenaged girls have said they wish they could change the way they looked.

Today, the message of equality for girls is being celebrated online, with #DayoftheGirl trending on Twitter and Facebook giving users the option to download a celebratory message as a profile picture from selected organizations.

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