International Day of the Girl Child

11 October 2022


In December 2011, the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution 66/170 declaring 11 October 2012 as the inaugural day recognizing the importance of empowering and investing in girls. 

The purpose of the day, which marks its 10th anniversary this year, was to stand up for and with girls who are more vulnerable to discrimination and violence than boys the moment they first draw breath. Though her potential is equal to a boy’s, that possibility is not always valued or nurtured. Consider that 140 million girls are “missing” because of gender-based sex selection. Or that 1 in 4 girls aged 15 - 19 are not in school, employment or training compared to 1 in 10 boys. 

Resolution 66/140 further delves into a girl’s inability to enjoy the rights, opportunities and benefits of childhood and adolescence. It notes “that child and forced marriages expose young married girls to greater risk of HIV and sexually transmitted infections, often lead to early childbearing and increase the risk of disability, stillbirth and maternal death, and reduce their opportunities to complete their education, gain comprehensive knowledge, participate in the community or develop employable skills, and violate and impair the full enjoyment of the human rights of women and girls.” 

In the past 10 years, 25 million child marriages have been prevented. But here are two more “10s”: up to 10 million girls will be at risk of child marriage in the next 10 years, in addition to the 100 million already at risk pre-pandemic, according to the 2021 Sustainable Development Goals Report

Since 2016, the UNFPA-UNICEF Global Programme to End Child Marriage has tackled child marriage in 12 countries with high-prevalence rates of child marriage: Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Mozambique, Nepal, Niger, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Yemen and Zambia. And our reach extends to every pocket of the globe as achieving zero gender-based violence and harmful practices is one of UNFPA’s transformational results. 

Wedding websites are created by couples to inform wedding guests of details of the event plus the personal history of the couple’s life together. Such sites are intended to be celebratory. We created one for an 8-year-old child married off to a 31-year-old groom in Yemen. By subverting the idea of such a site with the horror of a real child marriage, we call attention to the plight of many girls around the world who have little to no bodily autonomy, a violation of their rights.

Girls should not be sacrificed for her family’s economic salvation, poverty being a driver of child marriage. Let a girl be a girl. And let a woman’s wedding day be unforgettable for the right reasons, with tears shed for joy to celebrate beginnings, not for sorrow to mourn endings. Do we stand steadfast in our commitment to see that no girl is married before she freely decides she is willing and ready? We do.

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