International Day of the Girl is an opportunity to highlight girls worldwide as leaders and changemakers, in spite of the barriers they continue to face because of their gender. But we can’t just think about the world’s girls once a year on October 11th. Ending poverty and achieving gender equality will only be possible if we pay attention to the needs of girls every day — and invest to make sure they’re met.
What’s the problem?
Sexism is unacceptable. Poverty can make it a death sentence. Globally, girls are being married off at a rate of 33,000 a day, girls and young women are infected with HIV at a rate of 340,000 a year, and have a 1 in 3 chance of being a victim of violence in their lifetime. This is harmful and unjust – to girls and women, their families, their communities, and their countries.
If we don’t fight for every girl to have the future she deserves, we’re limiting all of humanity’s potential.
What’s the solution?
We need to break down the barriers that stop girls and women from reaching their full potential.
Everyone has a role to play. And we especially need those with power and resources — from country governments to private sector companies — to put women and girls at the centre of their investments.
We need health programs to prioritize reaching adolescent girls, who are most likely to be infected with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa.
- Nearly 1000 adolescent girls and young women contract HIV every day. Effectively targeting this population could avoid these new infections, as well as HIV transmission to their children. (180,000 children acquired HIV during birth or breastfeeding in 2017.)
We need education investments that make sure girls can safely access and complete school — without pressures to drop out to get married or have children when they are still children themselves.
- If all girls had a primary education there would be 70% fewer mothers dying in childbirth.
- Worldwide, if all girls had a secondary education, there would be 66% fewer child marriages.
- In sub-Saharan Africa, if all girls had secondary education, 60% fewer girls would get pregnant before their 17th birthday.
We need quality job opportunities for girls and women as they transition out of school, to narrow gender gaps in workforce participation and pay.
- If all gender gaps in work and society were closed, it would boost the global economy by an incredible US $28 trillion.
The data doesn’t lie – investing in women and girls creates exponential benefits that lift communities out of poverty faster.
We must do everything in our power to elevate the priorities and perspectives of girls and women living in poverty.
You don’t need to be a girl in Niger to understand how awful it would be to be forced to marry a man twice your age. You don’t need to be a girl in South Sudan to imagine how it would feel to be told you couldn’t go to school. You don’t need to be a girl in Swaziland to know what it feels like to be afraid of walking home alone after dark.
Sexism transcends borders. World leaders need to know that our demand for gender equality does not stop in our own backyard – we are a global movement fighting for justice for girls and women everywhere.