Wednesday 11 October is the International Day of the Girl Child. This is a special day established by the United Nations in 2011 to advocate for girls’ rights and to help highlight the unique challenges they face across the globe.
Making the world a better, safer, more equal playing field for the 1.1 billion girls alive today is a no-brainer. Besides gender equality being a basic human right, it’s also proven to stabilize societies, making them healthier, happier places for people to live. According to research carried out by the Malala Fund, when a country educates all its girls as well as its boys, it cuts the risk of war in that country by half.
Educating girls is just smart money too. The organisation, set up by the Pakistani education activist and Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, also notes that if all girls in low and middle-income countries attended school for just 12 years, those countries could add $92 billion per year to their economies.
But the education of young girls is not all that’s needed to achieve gender equality. We have to educate ourselves too so that we understand the fundamental issues young girls face daily.
That’s one of the reasons why the International Day of the Girl is so important and why you should take an active role in advocating for and celebrating young girls in your life and around the world on that day – and every day.
And if you’re looking for some ways to support the world’s girls on this day, then here are a few suggestions to get you started.
Get Your Facts Straight - and then Share Them
If you don’t know some of the issues facing girls around the world, spend 30 minutes of your day fine-tuning your facts (UNICEF, UN Women and HeForShe are just three of the many international organisations that can help you brush up on some meets).
And then share those facts in whatever way you can.
Write a blog article. Post on social media. Chat about it with your friends. Just spread the knowledge.
Start a Conversation
Have a young sister, daughter, niece, gal pal, or any important girl or young woman in your life? Ask them what International Day of the Girl means to them. Why do they think it’s necessary?
Let them know their opinion matters on this and other subjects.
Read a Book
When young girls see themselves and their problems reflected to them in stories written by women for women it can be empowering.
They learn their stories and perspectives matter. And that their voice and the voice of all women is valuable in society.
So give them a brilliant book by a woman writer to read. Or better yet, read it with them.
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Increase Girls' (Good) Media Usage
Along with feminist classics and books with strong female protagonists, make sure the girls in your life are exposed to non-traditional gender roles in the wide variety of media they use today – from movies to art, social media to online games.
Studies show that exposure to gender stereotypes in TV and film doesn’t just help endorse beliefs in traditional gender roles but has also been linked to negative effects on physical and psychological well-being in young girls.
Be a Mentor
We all have a superpower. Whether it is sports or empathy, commit today to using it to help girls in your neighbourhood or family.
You could sign up to help in a Big Sister programme or after-school homework club.
Or you could offer one hour of your week (that’s 60 minutes out of 10,000+ minutes) to teach the special girl in your life to play chess, practice piano, understand trigonometry or just hang out and chat about her present day and her future dreams.
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Support Girls' Charities
Every day girls are trafficked across borders, forced into marriages, taken out of school, or fated to spend their young lives undertaking hours of unpaid work and caregiving.
If you’re passionate about one or more of these issues, make a stand.
There’s a slew of local, national and international organisations and charities fighting to make girls’ lives better. Support them with your money, time or voice.
Say It Loud and Proud
Tell the girls in your life that you believe in and care about them. A simple word of support can change their life.
Make Your Support Social
Share your own story of overcoming life or gender challenges using UK-based charity Inspiring Girl International's hashtags for the day - #thislittlegirlisme and #SupportInspiringGirls.
Don’t think your story matters? Think again.
Research by the British charity shows that 93% of girls have higher personal and career aspirations after following inspiring women on social media.
And, finally, don’t worry if time or resources are tight and you feel you’re not able to dive in with a lot of support.
Even if you take a minute to post this article (or any article focused on the International Day of the Girl Child) to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram – you’ve instantly helped promote this important and powerful day.