Today is the United Nations International Day of the Girl Child, and the focus is on education. Below is a message from one of The Elders – an inspiring group of wise women and men – Ela Bhatt, who founded the huge Self-Employed Women’s Association of India and her country’s first women’s bank. She is also a practitioner of Gandhi’s philosophy of self-reliance and non-violence. The Elders are supporting the campaign to end child marriage, which of course affects both boys and girls. Approximately 14 million girls are married before the age of eighteen every year, and this is across continents, cultures and religions.
Below is the message from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for today. I like his remark: “We must heed the voices of young people.” Not only listen, but pay attention, take them seriously, and take action accordingly. We must hear the voices of our youth – not tell them to shut up and “know their place.” Their place is in the world.
Empowering girls, ensuring their human rights and addressing the discrimination and violence they face are essential to progress for the whole human family. One of the best ways to achieve all of these goals is to provide girls with the education they deserve.
Yet too many girls in too many countries are held back simply because of their gender. Those whose mother was also deprived of an education, who live in a poor community, or who have a disability face an even steeper climb. Among girls who do make it to school, many face discrimination and violence.
I launched the Global Education First Initiative to accelerate progress in getting every child into school, especially girls. We are aiming to teach more than reading and counting; we are striving to raise global citizens who can rise to the complex challenges of the 21st century.
To achieve meaningful results, we need fresh solutions to girls’ education challenges and we must heed the voices of young people.
I have heard from girls around the world participating in the consultations for the new Girl Declaration. I resolve to ensure that Global Education First mobilizes all partners to respond to their powerful call for empowerment.
More broadly, our campaign to reach the Millennium Development Goals by 2015 and shape a vision beyond that date must address the concerns and potential of the world’s girls.
On this International Day of the Girl Child, let us work together to invest in education so that girls can advance in their personal development and contribute to our common future.
The recently installed Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, has added her voice: “Universal quality public education that is engendered is key to providing a strong foundation for democracy, women’s empowerment and the realization of equality.”
A grown-up girl, and one of my teen idols, Marilyn Monroe, once remarked: “I’m dreaming the hardest.” Let’s allow our girls to dream as hard as everyone else, and help their dreams come true. As Hillary Clinton (my former boss as Secretary of State) has noted (and I agree with her): “I believe that the rights of women and girls is the unfinished business of the 21st century.”
I’m sharing below a small photo gallery of Jamaican girls, full of so much potential. If you know a girl who needs a helping hand, reach out. She will never forget that you did.
Related links and articles:
http://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2013/10/ed-message-for-international-day-of-the-girl-child#sthash.D1G2UOJ8.dpuf UN Women Message for International Day of the Girl Child
http://www.girlsnotbrides.org Girls Not Brides
http://www.theelders.org The Elders
http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2013/10/10/malala-jon-stewart-daily-show/2959599/ Malala Yousafzai wows “The Daily Show”: USA Today