So many things happened in 2011. A revolution in Egypt, the Japanese earthquake, and subsequent tsunami, Amy Winehouse dies, Libyan ruler Colonel Muammar Gaddafi was killed, and the UN establishes International Day of the Girl Child. As a father of 2 girls, I am embarrassed to admit that the latter UN resolution escaped me. So what is the International Day of the Girl Child?
Break it Down
Empower. Verb. To “make (someone) stronger and more confident, especially in controlling their life and claiming their rights…”
“EmPOWER girls: Before, during and after conflict” was the theme for the 2017 observance of International Day of the Girl Child. Held each year on October 11, this year’s celebration marked the fifth anniversary of the event also known as the International Day of the Girl and the Day of the Girl.
Make no mistake this is a worldwide event dealing with serious issues that impact young girls and women around the world and for their lifetime. The issues are real: child marriage, gender inequality, access to education and medical care, sexual and physical violence. Issues so compelling that the UN resolved in December 2011 to establish a day to highlight this inequity.
Celebrating the girl child provides the opportunity to showcase on a global scale the different issues that get faced. It is the chance to speak and demonstrate free and proud for fundamental rights, such as equal access to education and freedoms from abuse and discrimination. Events get held worldwide at the grassroots level and with the sponsorship and cooperation of various nations, political leaders and corporate and nonprofit organizations.
A Global Stage
This year, events were as diverse in culture and demographics as the locations that sponsored them.
UNICEF partnered to support activities in locations as far reaching as Istanbul, Turkey; Kyiv, Ukraine; Washington DC; the Dominican Republic and Azerbaijan. Agendas sponsored ranged from webinars to conferences and workshops to themed football matches. All aimed and educating, communicating and building solidarity before the eyes of the world.
2 programs, in particular, caught my eye as I sought to educate myself more on the issues and the many ways they are being addressed.
The Upper East Region (UER), Ghana challenged all citizens to participate in recognizing and collaborating on the day. Child marriage was at the forefront of the issues discussed. “It attracted stakeholders, including the National Commission for Civic Education, the National Youth Authority, Commission of Human Rights and Administrative Justice, Religious and Traditional leaders, students’ from second cycle institutions and pupils at the basic school levels and parents among others.”, as reported in newsghana.com.gh
A celebration in Tamil Nadu, sponsored by the Sakthi-Vidiyal organization, spanned 2 days and focused on teaching students through various exercises to seek ways to empower themselves. A facial display was organized proclaiming ‘We are the brightness of the world’. It is often the case that young girls feel they do not have the right to be equal and live under the pallor of constant discrimination at school and at home.
This is a small sample of the types of events that have come into being and continue to grow dedicated to taking on these challenges and empowering girls around the world. It needs to be clear that this attention is not focused for a day each year, but for every day of every year. The discrimination and the inequities and abuse are not for a day, but get faced every day and have an affect on lifetimes.
What Can You Do?
What can you do to get involved, support, advocate and empower not for a day, but every day and for girls and young women around the world?
Connect and communicate: Social media platforms are a quick and accessible entry point. Check out #DayoftheGirl and follow the conversations. Facebook has groups founded on empowerment and also to a much more granular issue level. Search on ’empowering young women’ or ‘stop violence against women’ for examples and see all the opportunities.
Volunteer or donate: UNICEF, care, children international, and empowerwomen are a great place to start. If you have the time sign up and participate. Donations are usually welcome. What is important is to be part of the impact.
Support: The girls and young women in your life deserve your support and encouragement. Talk about the issues and take action. It is never too late to have a positive impact on a life or a lifetime.
Being the father of two girls it has been a pleasure researching the dedication of this day and sharing some of the information and stories I have found about this life supporting celebration.