Nine years ago, a United Nations resolution established 11 October as the International Day of the Girl Child (IDGC). This day is designated for promoting the rights of girls and addressing the unique challenges they face. This agenda leads global movements on issues ranging from sexual and reproductive health rights to equal pay.
The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, established in 1995, is the global agenda that sought to advance the rights and empowerment of women and girls, everywhere. This year’s IDGC celebration marks 25 years of bold action on gender equality.
The maiden celebration in 2012 focused on the issue of ending child marriage. The global progress made in ending child marriage is hopeful. In Africa, a total of 21 countries from both West and East Africa, joined a campaign launched by the African Union (AU) in 2017, to end child marriage. This is a huge step as West and East Africa have the highest child marriage rates in the world. In Latin America, a regional inter-agency programme to end child marriage was launched by the UN, encouraging 5 Latin American countries to strengthen their legislation in making marriage before the age of 18 illegal without exceptions. In India, the Supreme court closed a legal loophole, ruling that sex with a wife under the age of 18 constitutes rape and it is a punishable offence.
A lot of progress has been made to strengthen national child protection systems and protect the girl child against violence. More girls are going to school, fewer girls are forced into early marriage, more women are serving in parliament and positions of leadership, and laws are being reformed to advance gender equality.
Despite these gains, more work needs to be done. In Iraq, girls as young as 9 years old are permitted by law to get married. Globally, 1 in 3 women have experienced violence at the hands of their current or former partners in their lifetime. 3 out of every 4 trafficked children are girls. These depressing statistics reflect the difficulty women face in breaking intergenerational cycles of poverty or having access to equal economic opportunities as men.
The COVID-19 pandemic could reverse the limited progress gained in the fight for gender equality.
IDGC 2020, themed “My Voice, Our Equal Future” will focus on living free from gender-based violence, learning new skills toward the future they choose, and enabling girls to lead activism that accelerates social change.
How can you support IDGC?
Share stories of adolescent girls or girl/women led-organizations that are developing innovative solutions or leading efforts towards positive social change to make the world a better place. Also, you can participate in digital activism to amplify the voices of young girls and their vision for an equal future.
Achieving gender equality through girl-child empowerment initiatives is important to achieving the sustainable development goals (SDGs). Ending all forms of discrimination against girls is not only beneficial to their families and communities, but economic growth as well.