October 11 is the International Day of the Girl Child, adopted as a United Nations General Assembly resolution in 2011. Why did the UN decide we need a Day of the Girl? Because girls worldwide do not have access to the education, care, and respect they need and deserve—and it is time to change that. This year, the Day of the Girl focuses on education as vital to both girls and societies. As the UN puts it, “The fulfillment of girls’ right to education is first and foremost an obligation and moral imperative. There is also overwhelming evidence that girls’ education, especially at the secondary level, is a powerful transformative force for societies and girls themselves: it is the one consistent positive determinant of practically every desired development outcome, from reductions in mortality and fertility, to poverty reduction and equitable growth, to social norm change and democratization.” This, my friends, is a day of activism on behalf of girls worldwide.
The Day of the Girl is about creating change, with concrete goals in mind. The UN identifies the following steps we can take to improve education for girls worldwide:
- Improving transportation to get girls to school—wherever they are in the world, and however they need to get there
- Collaboration between schools and banks to be sure that female teachers are paid and female students get scholarships
- Targeting science and technology courses at girls
- Corporate mentorship to develop work and leadership skills
- Revising school curricula to focus on positive messages about gender norms and roles, sexual and reproductive health, child marriage, and violence
- Using mobile technology to reach girls in remote areas
I love this list because it is concrete and comprehensive, and truly speaks to the needs of girls worldwide—from girls in privileged countries who are dealing with sexism and sexual violence in the media to girls in remote areas of the world who can’t get to school—or aren’t allowed to go.
So who’s doing what, and how can you help?
I’m glad you asked:
- Girls Speak Out: Go to dayofthegirlsummit.org to learn about the Girls Speak Out event at the United Nations today. Girls who are speaking to the UN will discuss their ideas for change, and what others can do to help.
- Day of the Girl: Go to dayofthegirl.org to get the full scoop on how the day came about, what it means for girls worldwide, and what you can do to help—including taking action in your own community.
- Brave Girls Alliance: Beginning this evening at 6 pm, tweets with the hashtag #BraveGirlsWant will take over a billboard in Times Square, for four minutes of every hour for seven days. And what do brave girls want? A change in the way our media portrays girls. Check out www.bravegirlswant.com for more information—and tweet away, my friends. Tweet like your girlhood—or that of a girl you love—depended on it.
- Social Network Safety: Conversations about the day of the girl are happening all over the place. One of the most vital—and one that is close to my heart—is happening on the Social Network Station, where 11-year-old feminist activist Aaliyah Gohir will be weighing in on how to make Social Networks safer for girls. This forum, created via a collaboration between feminist activist and author Trista Hendren and Social Network Association CEO Jim Nico, provides a platform for discussing and preventing violence against women in our media. I’ve been honored to be a part of the conversation on the forum, and I encourage you to join us as both a listener and a commenter. Together, we can create change.
I hope you will join me in celebrating the Day of the Girl—learn it, teach it, tweet it, speak it. The time for girls to awaken to their own potential and work toward its fulfillment is now.