‘Day of the Girl’ Goes Global
11 October 2012 at 8:40 am
Khamma Devi uses posters and illustrated aids to explain the issues relating to child marriage for girls in the Himmatpura Village, Jodhpur District, Rajasthan.
Photo: Anita Khemka, UNICEF
Australian Not for Profits have joined with organisations around the world to celebrate the inaugural International Day of the Girl Child in a bid to raise awareness of gender inequalities between boys and girls.
The International Day of the Girl Child draws attention to the different types of discrimination and abuse that many girls around the world face including lack of access to education, exploitation and early marriage practices.
World Vision Australia’s Gender Advisor, Michelle Lokot, said World Vision is working in communities around the world to address these issues.
“Discrimination and violence against girls, and violations of their human rights still happen every day. Some 600 million women worldwide are illiterate compared to 320 million men.
“Studies show that girls with higher levels of education marry later, have smaller families, survive childbirth at higher rates, experience reduced incidences of HIV/AIDS, have children more likely to survive to the age of five, and earn more money,” she said.
World Vision is calling on people around Australia to do what they can to give girls a brighter future.
Child rights agency Plan International is celebrating International Day of the Girl Child with a campaign that focuses on the 75 million girls who are out of school across the globe.
In Canberra Prime Minister Julia Gillard launched the Day of the Girl at an event co-hosted by Plan, where she spoke about the importance of educating girls.
“Nothing is more important than education,” Gillard said. “I don't want to see young girls working in sweatshops. I want to see them in the classroom – well fed and clothed, immunised, safe from harm and free to learn. Education is the key. Education is aid that works.”
In late 2011 the United Nations declared that October 11 would become the International Day of the Girl Child after extensive lobbying by Plan and its supporters.
“The celebration of the first ever Day of the Girl is a significant step in Plan’s goal of addressing the inequalities that girls face around the world,” Plan International Australia chief executive Ian Wishart said.
“Girls face a series of unique and urgent challenges that require specific attention. One of the most serious and pressing is in the area of education,” he said.
“Millions of girls across the world are learning only what they need to survive. They deserve to be learning more than this. They deserve our support to move from poverty to opportunity.
“That’s why Plan is launching its global Because I am a Girl campaign to break down the barriers to girls’ education.
“We want all Australians to head to our Because I am a Girl Facebook page and raise their hand in support of girls’ education using our special application."
Aid agency, UNICEF has joined forces with its UN partners in calling for an end to child marriage as part of International Day of the Girl Child.
UNICEF said child marriage was a fundamental human rights violation denying a girl of her childhood, disrupting her education and increasing her risk of exposure to violence and abuse.
Photo: Plan International Australia
Around the world a third of all women aged between 20 and 24 married before the age of 18. A third of these girls and women married before the age of 15.
“Worldwide UNICEF and our UN partners are advocating for governments to legalise a minimum age for girls to marry without consent,” UNICEF Australia chief executive officer Dr Norman Gillespie said.
Dr Gillespie said UNICEF research, confirmed by experiences from workers in the field, found child brides were at greater risk of violence, abuse and exploitation.
However, where girls were given access to education, UNICEF experience also found girls were empowered to voice their opposition to marrying too young, and better understand their options in relation to their physical and sexual health.
“Where girls enter secondary education, their chances of marrying as a child are six times less likely,” he said.
Follow International Day of the Girl Child via twitter using the hashtag #dayofthegirl