Today, the International Day of the Girl Child celebrates girls around the world, while drawing attention to the need to address the challenges girls face and to promote girls’ empowerment and the fulfilment of their human rights.
Over time, progress has been made to advance girls rights around the world, but this International Day of the Girl Child comes at turbulent times, with the world facing the rising challenges of forced displacement, climate change and violent extremism.
According to the United Nations, whether caused by armed conflict or natural disaster, humanitarian crises always hurt women and girls the most, “accounting for more than 75 percent of the refugees and displaced persons at risk from war, famine, persecution and natural disaster. They are also vulnerable to sexual abuse and exploitation, during conflicts and in refugee camps”.
This year’s theme – “EmPOWER girls: emergency response and resilience planning”- marks the beginning of a year-long commitment to promote the protection of girls from conflict and violence and to strengthen their resilience, while ensuring their full participation in mediation and negotiation processes.
On December 19, 2011, United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 66/170 to declare October 11 as the International Day of the Girl Child, to recognize girls’ rights and the unique challenges girls face around the world.
Over the last 15 years, the global community has made significant progress in improving the lives of girls during early childhood. However, there has been insufficient investment in addressing the challenges girls face when they enter the second decade of their lives.
“This includes obtaining quality secondary and higher education, avoiding child marriage, receiving information and services related to puberty and reproductive health, and protecting themselves against unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted disease and gender-based violence.” Says Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova.
In Canada and around the world, far too many girls are subjected to sexual and gender-based violence, and struggle to get the quality education, health care, and economic opportunities they need.
But, according to a statement today by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, advancing girls’ rights is a top priority for the Government, which has made empowering women and girls a focus in Canada’s international aid.
“At home, we are supporting schools and early childhood education, health care, and jobs and skills training”, says Trudeau, “Investments that help girls and young women get the support and opportunities they need”.
The PM also says that his government is encouraging young women’s leadership, including on the Prime Minister’s Youth Council. “Young women make up more than half of the council, where they have a strong voice in issues that matter to them and to our country.”