International Day of the Girl - October 11
International Day of the Girl celebrates the importance, power, and potential of girls around the world.
It is also a day to highlight girls’ needs and the particular problems they can face, and drive efforts that meet these needs and fulfill their rights – not benevolently for them but in partnership with them.
While much progress has been made in the last two decades to ensure every girl is able to grow and develop in good health, there is much still to do. For example, 12 million girls are married before age 18 each year. One in five girls globally has experienced sexual violence. In Eastern and Southern Africa, nearly 80% of new HIV infections among adolescents are among girls.
In 2021, the Generation Equality Forum launched five-year commitments for bolder solutions to gender inequality – just as the world entered the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the pandemic has accelerated digital platforms for learning, earning, and connecting, some 2.2 billion people below the age of 25 still do not have internet access at home.
Girls are more likely to be cut off. The gender gap for global internet users grew from 11 percent in 2013 to 17 percent in 2019. In the world’s least developed countries, it hovers around 43 percent.
But the gender digital divide is about more than connectivity. Girls are also less likely than boys to use and own devices and gain access to tech-related skills and jobs. Only by addressing the inequity and exclusion that span geographies and generations can we usher in a digital revolution for all, with all.
Why is it celebrated?
Girls face distinct disadvantages for being both young and female. Around 62 million girls around the world have no access to education1 and less than 40% of countries provide girls and boys with equal access to education.
We believe that investing in girls’ education not only equips girls with skills and knowledge to grow and prosper, but it helps their siblings, family, and the wider community to thrive as well.
Girls who stay in school are more likely to support themselves, look after their health, avoid early marriage and pregnancy and contribute to society.
One of the ways we support girls' right to education is through our child sponsorship work. Sponsoring a girl helps to pay for new school buildings, school fees, and school supplies such as books and equipment.
Our approach is unique. We work directly with communities to help them create a better future for their children and themselves.
History of the Day of the Girl
October 11 has been a key global moment to celebrate the power of girls and highlight the barriers they face since the United Nations adopted it as International Day of the Girl in December 2011.
While there has long been an International Women's Day and an International Day of the Child, neither of these days recognizes the unique position of girls who are discriminated against simply for being young and female.
UNICEF led the global effort to build a coalition of support behind the Day of the Girl, securing support from the Canadian government which took our call all the way to the United Nations.
We worked with girls who believed that an international day could be a launchpad for global action on girls’ rights. Through their stories, ideas, and views it was clear that an international day for girls would bring a global focus to their lack of representation in the global development agenda.
What harsh realities are being faced by girls in developing countries?
In many developing countries, women and girls are denied their basic rights, just because of their gender.
Young girls are often kept out of school because they are not seen as a legitimate investment. Even when they do start school, they might be forced to drop out to earn an income or do household chores. They may miss school or drop out altogether when they begin menstruating, due to inadequate facilities, if they become pregnant, or to avoid sexual harassment at school or on their way to school.
Statistics show that one in six adolescent girls are married or in a union. They are usually sold to older men for a dowry. Once married, these girls can face sexual and emotional abuse. Many of them face complications in childbirth because their bodies are inadequately developed. Their babies are less healthy, and the mothers can often die giving birth.
It's estimated that 15 million adolescent girls will be married to grown men each year - that's one girl every two seconds. A startling 168 million children are currently involved in child labor.
Why is education so important to empower girls?
Daughters are often sold because their families cannot afford them. Education is an expensive investment, and families in poverty can often depend on the dowry to keep them afloat.
When you support a girl's education, you can help her break this cycle. Girls who are educated can pursue meaningful work and contribute to their country’s economy later in life. They are also four times less likely to get married young when they have eight years of education, meaning that they and their families are healthier.
Once the girls are mothers, their education can continue onto the next generation. Educated mothers are twice as likely to send their own children to school. Children born to a literate mother are 50 percent more likely to live past age five.
When you sponsor a girl, you help give her this education and many more opportunities that gender inequality might deny her.