International Day of the Girl Child is an international observance day declared by the United Nations (UN). This day recognizes the benefits of empowering and investing in girls everywhere. The UN’s mission for Day of the Girl is “to help galvanize worldwide enthusiasm for goals to better girls’ lives, providing an opportunity for them to show leadership and reach their full potential.” By starting and participating in this movement, we recognize the power that a world centered on inclusion and equality holds.
Globally, there are 62 million girls not enrolled in school. There are three main education barriers, according to a report produced by the United States Global Strategy to Empower Adolescent Girls that keep enrollment low: financial access, gender-specific exclusivity, and education quality. The costs of enrollment fees, uniforms, and school supplies put parents in the difficult position of having to choose which child they can afford send to school. In most cases, parents believe it is better to invest in education for their sons because their success offers a greater return for the family, leaving girl children behind. Furthering the issue, globally, many girls are precluded from attending school if they are married or pregnant. And curriculum can be centered with negative gender stereotypes. This can drive women into “gender specific” professions and may ultimately steer them away from a traditional labor force. The implications of these exclusions are wide-reaching and can be staggering.
The bottom line is that we’ve got to give all girls a fighting chance – and that starts with education. They just need the proper tools (education, health, safety) to transition into adulthood. With those tools, they are “more likely to join the formal labor force, broadening a country’s tax base and increasing its productivity”. Investing in education for girls will help break the cycle of poverty and will empower generations of girls/women for years to come. Here in the U.S., President and First Lady Obama launched the Let Girls Learn initiative “to address the range of challenges preventing adolescent girls from attaining a quality education that empowers them to reach their full potential.”
We couldn’t be more committed to ensuring that girls – and all children – have a strong educational foundation. We can’t afford not to.