Happy International Day of the Girl Child!

In my day job, I work for humanitarian and development organizations. Though I don’t talk about those issues much on this blog, I wanted to take the time to celebrate the most important – and probably most neglected – resource the world has: girls.

The United Nations declared today the first annual International Day of the Girl Child. This year’s theme is “Ending child marriage”.

If you click that link above, you’ll find some startling statistics:

Globally, around one in three young women aged 20-24 years were first married before they reached age 18. One third of them entered into marriage before they turned 15. Child marriage results in early and unwanted pregnancies, posing life-threatening risks for girls. In developing countries, 90 per cent of births to adolescents aged 15-19 are to married girls, and pregnancy-related complications are the leading cause of death for girls in this age group.

Girls with low levels of schooling are more likely to be married early, and child marriage has been shown to virtually end a girl’s education. Conversely, girls with secondary schooling are up to six times less likely to marry as children, making education one of the best strategies for protecting girls and combating child marriage.

In September I had the privilege of traveling to India to visit some of the projects the foundation I work for funds. I visited a couple of girls’ schools, where I met incredibly enthusiastic students.

Girls at school

When I asked the girls in this photo what they wanted to do when they grew up, almost all of them said, “Be a teacher!” I think that shows how much they love and value their education. The others said they wanted to be a doctor. I hope they all get to realize their dreams.

Girls in classroom

The two girls in this photo put on a sketch for their classmates. When they finished, they motioned for me to take their picture. One wasn’t enough, though. They kept posing for me, looking at the picture, then giggling together. It reminded me of how important my school friends were when I was that age.

Girls in classroom

This is a boarding school that takes girls from ethnic minority tribes and from rural areas who otherwise wouldn’t be able to go to school. Most of them had dropped out of a previous school because the location was too far or because they were bullied for their ethnicity. The teacher asked them if they had any questions for me. The girl standing up asked, “Why are you so white?” Quite a struggle not to laugh as I said, “Because my parents are very white.”

Wherever you are, please take the time today – and every day after – to give a girl the encouragement she needs. Let’s not forget what a difficult time of life it is, no matter how much or how little money their parents have.

What’s one thing you would change to make life fairer for girls? What’s your strongest memory of school – whether good or bad? How do you encourage the girls in your life?

5 thoughts on “Happy International Day of the Girl Child!

  1. I can especially remember higher math and science and history teachers bypassing the girls. Football players were given special treatment. I’m almost 62 and back when I went to school I was basically told I could grow up to be a secretary, nurse or teacher. My parents said secretarial because money was all important and none was going to be wasted on college (my sister got pregnant at 19 so therefore that’s all girls were going to do anyway) I worked 15 yrs. before having my children. Thank goodness some things have changed but not nearly enough. I had two girls and made sure they knew they could be anything they wanted (even if it meant they may have to work harder). Both graduated from college and I couldn’t be prouder. We as a people still aren’t where we should be but I have hope for the future. Without getting into politics, I definitely think one particular party cares a lot more about education and especially that girls get their fair chance!!!

    1. How wonderful about your daughters, catslady!

      I remember I found my dad’s senior yearbook (from 1968) when I was a child and I found a spread about the “Future Businesswomen of America club”. It was a secretarial group. Even as a ten-year-old I could see how much opportunities for young women had changed in one generation. My fear is that we’re regressing in many ways. Now, instead of girls being told they can only be a secretary, nurse, teacher or mother, many get the message that they should try to become famous through taking their clothes off and posing on the internet.

  2. The one thing I would change if I could is for girls to be treated equal to boys in jobs and education. I know to this day men are still being paid more then women for doing the same jobs. I can remember being bullied in school and I wish that would change also. I don’t really have any girls, I had one boy. I have one great niece that I push to do well in school and she does do pretty good.

    1. I totally agree with you, Quilt Lady. It’s discouraging to have to work harder to make less in many jobs. Good for you for encouraging your niece. I’m sure she appreciates it!

  3. Dear Kat,
    Thank you for sharing these beautiful pictures and the stories that go with them. It makes me grateful for the people who always encouraged me and my three sisters, and it reminds me to pass it on!
    Take care,
    Amie

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