International Day of the Girl Child
It is undeniable. Girls are powerful catalysts of change.
Each year on October 11th, the world celebrates the International Day of the Girl Child to amplify the voices, stories and challenges of girls everywhere.
The journey of every girl is uniquely etched but the terrain is universally rough. Girls face many instances of discrimination on a daily basis, even with respect to basic rights. Girls and women navigate a range of challenges such as domestic violence, sexual violence and rape, poverty, pay disparity, femicide, menstrual health and reproductive rights, the dowry system and many more. Their rights only deteriorate as their socio-economic status declines.
During 2020’s COVID-19 pandemic, many of these pre-existing issues became more evident. A critical area that can guarantee lowered inequality is the access to education. The education of girls around the world have been impacted by school closures directly. Reduced family income and resources, increased caregiving responsibilities, disruption due to travel restrictions and exposure to abuse and violence have further compounded the lack of access to learning opportunities. Attending school means that girls are given skills and information that empowers them to make decisions that improve their lives and that of those around them. An extra year of education can help a girl earn 15-25% more as an adult (UNICEF). Access to learning opportunities allows a girl to enjoy freedom, independence and confidence. Their presence at school further empowers boys and men to encourage, defend and champion the rights of their female counterparts. And an educated mother more than doubles the chances of her children gaining access to education as well (UNICEF).
Unfortunately, girls are at a disadvantage in the area of health as well. Their access is impaired because they often do not have the resources or cultural autonomy required to make decisions that improve their well-being. Women, often primary caregivers in households, frequently also sacrifice their own health needs, while managing multiple responsibilities. Furthermore, women, particularly those in vulnerable communities, are in positions where they are often unable to negotiate safe sex practices, putting them at a greater risk of contracting HIV/AIDS. But even if women were able to protect themselves, the CDC reports that women have a higher likelihood of getting HIV since ‘receptive sex is riskier than insertive sex’ (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Additionally, the vulnerability of young girls is higher than that of adult women because their reproductive tract is still developing (Office on Women’s Health). That is why it is so important that girls receive early intervention and the support that they need to make better informed decisions.
The good news is that things are changing – with increased information provided in easy-to-understand local languages and visual aids, girls have the information and the resources to protect themselves against HIV.
Girls have to fight long and hard to obtain their basic right to freedom and equality, a fight that begins from the second they are born. And because every victory, no matter how small, is hard won, they use every opportunity to empower those around them. Women rally around each other, impacting their circles of influence that go on to create a positive ripple effect. When girls stand together, they are able to inspire enduring change in their homes, classrooms, community, and workplaces. This year, TeachAids celebrates this indomitable spirit of girls who will grow to become warrior women.