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11th October 2017 is the international day of the girl. 6 years ago, On December 19, 2011, the United Nations General Assembly voted to pass a resolution adopting October 11, 2012 as the inaugural International Day of the Girl Child.

The resolution states that the Day of the Girl recognizes: “empowerment of and investment in girls, which are critical for economic growth, the achievement of all Millennium Development Goals, including the eradication of poverty and extreme poverty, as well as the meaningful participation of girls in decisions that affect them, are key in breaking the cycle of discrimination and violence and in promoting and protecting the full and effective enjoyment of their human rights, and recognizing also that empowering girls requires their active participation in decision-making processes and the active support and engagement of their parents, legal guardians, families and care providers, as well as boys and men and the wider community.”

The International Day of the Girl Child initiative grew out of Plan International’s Because I Am a Girl campaign, which raises awareness of the importance of nurturing girls globally and in developing countries in particular.

Each year’s Day of the Girl has a theme; the first was “ending child marriage”, then “innovating for girl’s education”, 2014 was “Empowering Adolescent Girls: Ending the Cycle of Violence.” 2015 was “The Power of Adolescent Girl: Vision for 2030” 2016 was “Girls’ Progress = Goals’ Progress: What Counts for Girls.”. This year’s theme is “EmPOWER Girls: Emergency response and resilience planning.”

Whilst the theme is about empowerment, we still have a lot of work to do to bring girls around the world onto the same level so that empowerment is standardised across the world.

According to UN statistics, there are 100 million girls missing around the world. Where have they gone? Many of them are left on the sides of roads, drowned, maimed and thrown in trash bins. But even more of them have been aborted. The reason? They were girls, not boys.

Sex-selective abortion, also colloquially known as “gendercide,” is a huge problem. For every 200 girls born, one is refused the chance to see the light of day just because she is a female. Over the last 14 years, there were an average of 4,575 abortions every day. That comes to about one abortion motivated by gender every 18 seconds. Which means that if you make it into the world as a girl you’ve already achieved something.

But that doesn’t mean you are safe. Global child mortality is at around 4% and studies show that infant homicide is still predominantly female. So being born and then staying alive after birth is also an achievement.

As a girl, you have less chance of being educated than if you were a boy. Twice as many girls as boys will never start school in countries all around the world. Girls are almost two and a half more likely to be out of school if they live in conflict-affected countries, and young women are nearly 90% more likely to be out of secondary school than their counterparts in countries not affected by conflict. So being born, staying alive and getting to go to school is an achievement.

Then there is the struggle to stay in school as you get older and battle cultural and societal pressures.

  • Millions of girls are at risk of FGM
  • One in four girls globally are married before they reach 18.
  • Discrimination because of disability is real. The literacy rate for adults with disabilities is 3%. For women with disabilities the literacy rate is even lower, at 1%.
  • Each month, when you get your period you could be shunned from society. In some countries you’re seen as untouchable and forced to sleep outside.
  • As a girl, you’re at greater risk of HIV. Girls aged 10 to 14 are more likely than boys to die of Aids-related illnesses.
  • Worldwide, the biggest killer of girls aged 15 to 19 is suicide.
  • Teenagers are at more risk of having unsafe abortions than older women.
  • Maternal death is the second biggest cause of mortality for girls aged 15 to 19.

Making it through school is an achievement.
Growing up without being shunned for naturally occurring bodily functions is an achievement.
But guess what? If you make it through school, dodge early marriage and get into paid employment, the odds are you’ll earn less for doing the same job as your male colleagues. And then there’s life outside work. UN women estimated that 35% of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual violence at some point in their lives.

So how exactly can we empower girls with regards to emergency planning and resilience response when we are yet to bring girls around the world on equal footing? When it’s an achievement just to stay alive, healthy and educated? When will we be able to say that girls are just as equipped as boys to achieve their potential? That the path to success and empowerment for girls is as obstacle free as for boys?

It’s a long slow road to success but it hasn’t been in vain. Studies by the UN show that when girls are given an opportunity to learn, they learn at a faster rate than boys. Governments and organisations are working together to eradicate infanticide and child marriage. To raise awareness and educate men, boys, families and socieities. To ensure the safety and well-being of girls within and outside the home. When more women work, economies grow. Studies show that an increase in female labour force participation results in faster economic growth. Evidence from a range of countries shows that increasing the share of household income controlled by women, changes spending in ways that benefit children.

World leaders have set targets and made promises regarding female health and education. Globally companies and organisations are working hard to bridge the pay gap and create gender friendly environments.

But until a father provides his daughter with the same opportunities as his son, until a mother supports her daughter’s dreams of education and professional experience, until a brother fights cultural prejudice and oppressive practices to ensure his sister is safe – there is no end to the suffering of the girl child. Change begins with me. With you. With the support you give to the girls and women around you.

Girls of the world are watching. We will speak out, we will support our fellow girls and women till all of us are able to achieve more than that which is a basic human right. Give us opportunity and watch us soar.

 

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Happy International women’s day! To those of you who are unfamiliar, International Women’s Day, celebrated on March 8, is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women all over the world.

International Women’s Day (IWD) has been observed since in the early 1900’s – a time of great expansion and turbulence in the industrialised world that saw booming population growth and the rise of radical ideologies. International Women’s Day is a collective day of global celebration and a call for gender parity.

World-renowned feminist, journalist and social and political activist Gloria Steinem said, “The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organisation but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights”. Thus International Women’s Day is all about unity, celebration, reflection, advocacy and action – whatever that looks like globally and locally.

As a woman, for me, IWD is a day to celebrate the achievements of our gender, past and present. Whether it’s Ida B Wells, the African-American journalist, newspaper editor, suffragist, sociologist, feminist, Georgist, and an early leader in the Civil Rights Movement, or Ada Lovelace, Countess of Lovelace was an English mathematician and writer, or even the Egyptian Lotfia ElNadi who was the first African woman as well as first Arab woman to earn a pilot’s license. All these women have paved the way in their respective fields so that we have the rights we do today – The right to vote, to work, to represent others in government. And the rights we still fight for – rights to make decisions for our bodies that are unrestricted by taxes on female hygiene products, abortion laws or FGM practices. It is our responsibility not only today, but every day – to ensure we work to maintain our rights and that they are given to women all over the world.

As a Muslim woman, IWD means reflecting not on the turbulence of the past year but also on the greater history of Muslim women throughout time and the skills and qualities our role models have pursued and possessed in order to persevere. Muslim women are the visible targets for increasing islamophobia and angry outlets of ignorance and fear. Muslim women are required to navigate not only the cultural stigma of being female in whatever country she is from, but also the social stigma that is increasingly pervasive in our globalised society in its many forms online, on the street and in government policies. Muslim women navigate the patriarchal interpretations of the Quran to understand and abide by the rights afforded to them in Islam in the face of ‘well-intentioned’ men and sometimes women who feel a responsibility to subjugate them under the guise of religious instruction. Muslim women navigate the social stigma attached to their dress code and resist the western hegemony that believes it has the right to dictate what women should wear and how they should act. Campaigns, events and even trending twitter hashtags such as the #dearsister hashtag are crucial to enlightening and empowering Muslim women through the sharing of knowledge to dispel the fear that comes from ignorance.

As an Australian woman, IWD is a time to reflect on the prevalence and severity of violence against women in Australia. On average at least one woman a week is killed by a partner or former partner in Australia. One in three Australian women has experienced physical violence since the age of 15. One in five Australian women has experienced sexual violence. One in four Australian women has experienced physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner. One in four Australian women has experienced emotional abuse by a current or former partner. Women are five times more likely than men to require medical attention or hospitalisation as a result of intimate partner violence, and five times more likely to report fearing for their lives. Of those women who experience violence, more than half have children in their care. Eight out of ten women aged 18 to 24 were harassed on the street in the past year. Domestic or family violence against women is the single largest driver of homelessness for women, a common factor in child protection notifications and results in a police call-out on average once every two minutes across the country. The combined health, administration and social welfare costs of violence against women have been estimated to be $21.7 billion a year, with projections suggesting that if no further action is taken to prevent violence against women, costs will accumulate to $323.4 billion over a thirty-year period from 2015 to 2045.

Australia – we have a moral and ethical responsibility to ourselves and our society to be better. To do better. Violence against women in any form is unacceptable, and the growing evidence that women with disabilities are more likely to experience violence and that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women experience both far higher rates and more severe forms of violence compared to other women is a sad testament to the state of our society. We must urge our government to take action and put in place measures to ensure Australia turns back from this alarming growth and stays on track to becoming a safer and healthier environment for women of all ages, ethnicities and abilities.

As a woman of Bangladeshi heritage, IWD is a time to celebrate the achievements of great women my country has produced such as Begum Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain, a Bengali writer, educationist, social activist, and advocate of women’s rights who was and is considered the pioneer feminist of Bengal. It is also a time to reflect on the continuance of child marriages, the giving and taking of dowry, domestic violence, rape, acid attacks and sexual harassment. From the poorest of the poor to the richest of the rich, women in every strata of Bengali society whether at home or abroad face challenges as a result of being a woman. A working women, a thinking woman. According to a recent PwC report, Bangladesh’s economy is likely to grow at the fastest rate after Vietnam and India in the next 34 years. Let’s work to ensure our attention to developing security, education and rights for women grows at a greater pace.

International Women’s Day has been occurring for well over a century – and continues to grow from strength to strength. For International Women’s Day 2017, we’re asking you to #BeBoldForChange. Call on the masses, call on yourself and help forge a better working world. A more inclusive, gender equal world where every girl and every woman has the freedom to try, aspire and achieve.

Happy International Women’s day 2017!

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