If you’ve been anywhere near my Twitter feed in the last few weeks, you may have caught mention of the International Day of the Girl. It’s a day that we at Plan International campaigned for to make it an official UN observance. Well, after what feels like a Christmas Eve stretched out over several months, it’s finally here, and today, October 11, is the first ever International Day of the Girl.
It’s a day that we’ve been pushing pretty hard on social media through our regional and global accounts. But if I were you, I’d be asking myself one thing: why should I care? There are, after all, plenty of official UN observances. There’s even an International Children’s Day. Why do we need another day to add to an already-full calendar?
The answer is fairly straightforward: millions of girls aren’t getting the secondary education that could help them earn more, get married later and live better lives. Girls’ education is often overlooked and seen as being of little value. This is a tragedy when you consider that an extra year of secondary schooling could help a girl earn up to 25% more. When you factor in that there are 75 million girls around the world out of school, it really hits home how much potential is going to waste — and this is being felt throughout society.
There are many barriers to girls getting an education. While the number of girls and boys in primary school is relatively even in developing countries, by the time girls reach adolescence, everything changes. A third of girls in developing countries are married before they are 18 years old, even though its usually illegal. Long before they are grown up, girls often have to succumb to the stereotypical roles of spouse, mother and housewife.
In some countries — India and China, for example – boys are preferred over girls to the extent that female fetuses and babies are being killed, leading to an unnatural sex ratio. When boys are valued more than girls, the stereotypes persist and girls miss out on their most fundamental rights.
It’s with all this in mind that we’re using the first Day of the Girl to rally people to Raise Their Hands to show they agree girls have the right to an education. Nearly half a million people have raised their hand so far, either in photographs or virtually through our Facebook app. We’ve been doing this to show world leaders that people think this is an issue that deserves attention.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recently launched an education initiative called Education First to ensure children get the education they have the right to. We feel it’s important to show Ban Ki-moon that girls need to be the priority of this initiative.
On Day of the Girl, we’re also launching our Because I am a Girl (BIAAG) campaign, through which we expect to reach 4 million girls. It’s for that reason that we’re aiming to get 4 million hands raised by the end of the five-year campaign.
Today, we have events going on all over the world to mark Day of the Girl and the launch of BIAAG. Famous landmarks like the Pyramids, the Empire State Building, the London Eye and Niagara Falls will be turned pink and Plan has sent girl ambassadors from around the globe to speak at the United Nations in New York.