It seems everyday there's a new "national day of" something popping up in my social media feed. And, while I love a good holiday as much as the next person, most of these days seem to be pretty ridiculous. But there's one day I will for sure be observing each year: So when is International Day of the Girl, and what is it all about?
The origins of the International Day of the Girl began nearly 25 years ago when, as explained by United Nations (UN) website, "some 30,000 women and men from nearly 200 countries arrived in Beijing, China for the Fourth World Conference on Women, determined to recognize the rights of women and girls as human rights." From that conference, (where the most comprehensive policy agenda for women's empowerment was born) the UN declared in 2012 that October 11 each year would be recognized as the International Day of the Girl, a day that aims, as the UN states, "to highlight and address the needs and challenges girls face, while promoting girls' empowerment and the fulfillment of their human rights."
Though strides have been made, around the world girls and young women continue to face attacks on their basic human rights. As reported by UNICEF, worldwide approximately 15 million adolescent girls have experienced forced sex in their lifetime. What's more, in the 30 countries where female genital mutilation is still concentrated, UNICEF also reports that around one in three girls aged 15-19 have been subjected to this brutal practice. And, although UNICEF notes that the prevalence of child marriage (when a girl enters marriage before the age of 18) is decreasing globally, the total number of girls married in childhood still stands at 12 million per year.
Depressing as those statistics may be, they don't tell the full picture. Everyday, in even the most dire of circumstances, countless young women are fighting for their rights along with the help of organizations such as The Malala Fund, UN Women, and Girls Opportunity Alliance (started by Michelle Obama), to name a few. Yes, October 11 is a day to recognize the staggering plight so many girls face in the world, but it's also a day to celebrate the work being done to improve education, employment opportunities, and overall quality of life for girls everywhere.
This year's theme, “GirlForce: Unscripted and Unstoppable” (as stated in a UNICEF press release) celebrates that, "Girls are breaking boundaries and barriers posed by stereotypes and exclusion, including those directed at children with disabilities and those living in marginalized communities. As entrepreneurs, innovators and initiators of global movements, girls are leading and fostering a world that is relevant for them and future generations." Hell yeah they are!
To honor International Girls Day on October 11 (and beyond), you can do things such as donating much-needed funds to organizations fighting for the rights of girls around the world, such as those listed above, help your kiddos understand women's issues with a Little Feminist monthly children's subscription box, or even encourage your own child to volunteer with Day of the Girl US, a 100 percent youth-led movement that's organizing rallies to bring awareness to the day.
However you choose to honor the day, understanding the significance of why it exists in the first place is the first step in helping to improve the lives of girls around the world. As we continue to fight for our rights as women in this country (whether it be for earning equal pay, maintaining access to reproductive rights, or paid maternity leave for all), let's not forget about all the young women around the globe who still need our help, and deserve our attention on October 11 and every day after that.