Today’s the first ever International Day of the Girl! Last year at the UN General Assembly in December, the member states created a resolution to create this day to draw attention to issues that girls around the world face, with a special focus on ending child marriage. Today, all over the world, there will be special events, campaigns, and fundraisers to celebrate this day. For example, UN Women and UNFPA will be hosting a high level discussion with Desmond Tutu, founder of Girls Not Brides, President Michelle Bachelet of UN Women, Secretary General Ban-ki Moon, and many others about the special challenges that girls face and how to address them. 10×10, the global campaign to educate girls, is releasing their feature length documentary today. The UNFPA released a new report by experts working to end child marriage on the status of the struggle today and new strategies for addressing this issue. And Girls Not Brides, a global partnership of NGOs working to end child marriage, launched their new campaign “Too Young to Wed“.
I first learned about child marriage in an intimate way when I helped to organize the 1st International Congress to Eradicate Child Marriage in Los Angeles in 2011. The Congress assembled experts in the field together, such as Molley Melching, the Founder/Executive Director of Tostan, the First Lady of Burkina Faso, and more to discuss fieldwork practices in different countries and how to compare/integrate them. It was a high-energy, high-level gathering of experts giving other experts advice, but I believe that the basic facts and common sense about why we should end child marriage are accessible and easily understood by all: when girls get married earlier, they often stop their schooling or do not pursue careers. They get pregnant earlier. For the rest of their lives, they will be more vulnerable to sexually spread diseases (from their husbands) as well as economically dependent. 1 in 3 girls in developing countries are married before the age of 18 – that is 400 million girls around the world as of now and 10 million new girls every year. It may be a cultural practice and acceptable in many areas, but it is also a matter of human rights – and girls have the right to be girls. They have the right to receive an education, pursue a career, and choose their own husbands. They have the right to grow into women before they have children.
Learn more about this special day and efforts to end child marriage by following the trending hashtag #dayofthegirl and #endchildmarriage on Twitter today, and promote the Day of the Girl to all your friends and networks!