Today marks the world’s first annual International Day of the Girl. Established last November by the United Nations General Assembly, the day is meant to promote girls’ human rights, highlight gender inequalities that remain between girls and boys and address the various forms of discrimination and abuse suffered by girls around the globe. In the US, the campaign to establish the International Day of the Girl was spearheaded by School Girls Unite, an organization of students and young women leaders determined to advance awareness of gender equality, universal basic education and other human rights issues. Their mission mirrors the one created by the United Nations General Assembly Resolution on the International Day of the Girl: “To help galvanize worldwide enthusiasm for goals to better girls’ lives, providing an opportunity for them to show leadership and reach their full potential.”
Why is this so important? The reasons are endless, but take a look at these staggering facts to start:
School Dropout – Only 30% of girls in the world are enrolled in secondary school. In America, the dropout rate is worse for boys but one in four girls does not finish high school, and the dropout rate is even higher for minorities.
Forced Marriage – One in seven girls in developing countries is married off before age 15.
Violence – In the US more than half (54%) of all rapes of females happen before age 18. One in 5 high school girls has been physically or sexually abused by a dating partner. Worldwide children as young as age 11 are forced to work as prostitutes. Some estimates have as many as 1.2 million children being trafficked every year.
Body Image – More than half (54%) of 3rd-5th grade girls worry about their appearance and 37% worry about their weight. More than half (57%) of music videos feature a female portrayed exclusively as a decorative, sexual object.
To commemorate the first annual Day of the Girl, events were held all over the globe in an effort to celebrate, discuss and advance girls lives and opportunities. CNN honored the day by speaking to some of the world’s most remarkable and impressive women to ask them, “What one piece of advice would you give to your 15-year-old-self?” Leaders in the fields of politics, science, media, sports and culture answered the question and echoed many of my sentiments (and likely many women reading this) when I initially wondered what I would want to tell my former girl self. Melinda Gates, philanthropist and Co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said, “Make sure you continue to trust what you know now about yourself and stay true to what you believe in.” Likewise, violinist Vanessa Mae stated, “Be spontaneous and improvise, both in your music and in your life.” Check out other notable women’s responses here.
Wondering what you can do to get involved? You can participate in the Day of the Girl Virtual Summit online, download the Proclamation Project Tool Kit to make sure your community proclaims every October 11th The Day of the Girl, and raise awareness through social media:
- Download the Day of the Girl avatars for Facebook/Twitter/Tublr
- Like the Day of the Girl Facebook page
Lastly, women, think of your 15-year-old self, the person you used to be that you probably haven’t thought about in a while and ask yourself what CNN asked women around the world: what advice would you give your former self?