This morning, as I watched little girls struggling with their school bags and lunch boxes on their way to school, I couldn’t help but think about those girls in rural areas who have little or no access to education.
My heart bleeds for little girls who are given out in marriages to men old enough to be their fathers just because it is the culture where they were born. Instead of going to school, these girls are now saddled with the responsibilities of keeping their marriages as children.
I wept silently for girls being sexually abused by their fathers, family members and trusted figures in the society who have no one to turn into because they will be labeled promiscuous if they dared to report their abusers.
I am crying for girls who have undergone female genital mutilation thereby suffering painful sex for the rest of their lives. I cry for women who don’t know what orgasm is because their clitoris were cut off all in a bid to keep them chaste.
My heart is heavy for girls who have been raped and their rapists are roaming the streets free while the society blames these girls for being sexually violated.
I am weeping for girls who are orphans who have no hope for tomorrow. These girls who have valid dreams but it seems like life is hell bent on taking away their dream for a brighter tomorrow.
I was watching my almost 13-year-old daughter this morning getting ready for school. She was enthusiastic about it, her eyes gleamed with desire to be educated and her steps around the house with ease reminded of me when I was her age.
I remembered I was like her in many ways. I loved going to school. I had big dreams for myself. I had plans to be the best in everything I laid my hands on. I excelled in my studies, got good grades and put my life’s plan in motion.
But we all know that life is not a straight line. There are curves, bends, bumps and challenges that threaten to upset our lives. Nevertheless, the most important thing is to keep moving no matter what.
There are 1.1 billion girls today, a powerful constituency for shaping a sustainable world that’s better for everyone. They are brimming with talent and creativity.
But their dreams and potential are often thwarted by discrimination, violence and lack of equal opportunities. There are glaring gaps in data and knowledge about the specific needs and challenges that girls face.
What gets counted, gets done. The theme for this year’s International Day of the Girl Child, on 11 October, “Girls’ Progress = Goals’ Progress: A Global Girl Data Movement”, is a call for action for increased investment in collecting and analyzing girl-focused, girl-relevant and sex-disaggregated data.
One year into the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, improving data on girls and addressing the issues that are holding them back is critical for fulfilling the Sustainable Development Goals
One such issue that is standing in the way of girls’ progress is child marriage. The data is daunting—one in three girls in developing countries (except China) get married before they turn 18. Girls who are child brides miss out on education, are more vulnerable to physical and sexual violence, and bear children before they are physically or emotionally prepared.
The cycle of violence that begins in girlhood, carries over into womanhood and across generations. The 2030 Agenda must address their needs and unlock their potential.
UN Women works around the world to empower women and girls and raise awareness on their rights, advocate for the adoption and implementation of laws and policies that prohibit and prevent child marriage, and mobilize communities against the practice.
On the International Day of the Girl Child, we stand with the global community to support girls’ progress everywhere. Let girls be girls.