There are 1.1 billion girls in the world today, a powerful number for shaping a world that’s more sustainable for everyone. But girls dreams and potential are often thwarted by discrimination, violence and lack of equal rights and opportunities.
This year, the theme for Day of the Girl Child is “Girls’ Progress = Goals’ Progress: A Global Girl Data Movement”, and is a call for action for increased investment in collecting and analyzing girl-focused, girl-relevant and sex-disaggregated data. Improving data concerning the issues that Girls face is a crucial component towards fulfilling the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
A critical issue that needs to be tackled in order to improve the circumstances of the Girl Child is child marriage. In the developing world (excluding China), a startling one in three girls get married before the age of 18. Thats around 700 million girls.
Girls who are child brides miss out on education, are more vulnerable to physical and sexual violence, and bear children before they are physically or emotionally prepared. The cycle of violence that begins in girlhood, carries over into womanhood and across generations.
This issue must be tackled in order to empower girls and meet the goals of the 2030 Sustainable Agenda.
How do we empower girls? Of the children not attending school, girls represent the absolute majority – over 60 million. This naturally translates to a higher number of women being illiterate compared to men.
Highest on the agenda is therefore Education. Providing girls with basic education is a simple assurance of giving them greater personal power and independence. Girls will be able to make more calculated choices for themselves than depend on those around them for the same. This ability must not be a luxury but rather a critical necessity.
Secondly, through economic empowerment we must change the stereotypical culture of the male partner providing for the female partner. Evidence from a range of countries shows that increasing the share of household income controlled by women, either through their own earnings or cash transfers, changes spending in ways that benefit children. Furthermore, educated women lead to more women in labour – translated into a growing economy.
Finally, we must use our voices everyday to inform the world about the importance of realising and lifting up The Girl Child. In order to create new norms, we first need to break the old ones.