Despite the modern 21st century that we live in, there remains a large gap of gender inequality throughout the world. In October of 2012, Malala Yousafzai, an education activist, was on a schoolbus in Pakistan when a terrorist targeted her and shot her on the left side of her forehead. During the Super Bowl weekend of 2014, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) documented that it rescued 16 minors from being sold into sexual slavery. As of 2014, 125 million women and girls continue to be subjected to Female Genital Mutilation.
Whether girls are banned from and punished for attending school, raped on the streets, sold into sex slavery by their families or cut open for cultural norms, the sexes are not equal. To combat this problem, on December 19, 2011, The United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 66/170, declaring October 11 to be the International Day of the Girl Child.
While some have embraced this day, others have posed the valid question of, “Isn’t that kind of sexist?” Before asking that question, though, we must first study some pre-existing acts of sexism. Is it fair that women get paid less than men? Is there a reason why women are more often the victims of domestic violence and rape? Why are women and girls are abducted and sold into sex slavery? In certain parts of the world, why don’t men want women to get an education like the boys can? The International Day of the Girl Child is not a day to make men feel out of place, but instead, it is a day to bring awareness to both men and women that there remains great inequalities between the sexes. By raising awareness, people all over the world are beginning to formulate change. According to the United Nations, fulfillment girls’ rights to education comes first among many goals stemming from the International Day of the Girl Child. Why is education so important?
In many countries, girls cannot attend school and complete their education because of reasons such as safety, finances, institutional and cultural barriers. “Even when girls are in school, perceived low returns from poor quality of education, low aspirations, or household chores and other responsibilities keep them from attending school or from achieving adequate learning outcomes,” states the United Nations. Household chores, finances and low aspirations stem from a global history of patriarchy – historically, women have never had much of a voice. Because of their lack of say in what they can and can’t do, they have been marginalized, and their traditional roles have been marked out for them – they know of nothing better. Education, however, can begin to combat gender inequality and patriarchy, as well as tackle some of the world’s bigger issues. “Even though gender equality is on the table for the Post-2015 discussions, girls per se have little space in the discourse,” writes UNICEF Ethiopia. “In particular, girls’ education, acknowledged as the foundational basis not only for gender equality, but for a number of development outcomes is receiving a limited and diluted attention.” The International Day of the Girl child is beginning at education with the hopes that this will propel an even broader scope of equality in the future. As it has been said before: give a girl an education, and she will change the world.
In order to raise awareness about the education of girls, collaboration is required. According to the United Nations, innovation in partnerships, policies, community mobilization and engagement of young people can help address the importance of the subject and “propel” girls’ education into something that’s no longer just discussed, but is eventually done. While many organizations present special awareness projects on October 11, you can raise awareness every day of the year.
Three ways you can get involved:
– Half the Sky: Written by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, this book covers many inequalities that women face around the world, and the importance of education and how it can fix many of these problems. Since the publishing of the book, a documentary of the same name has also been made. Get a group of family and friends together, watch the film, and end by opening up to a discussion on how this problem could or couldn’t get better.
– Girl Rising: Watch the film from Academy Award-nominated director Richard E. Robbins as the crew travels around the world to document the strength and spirit of often marginalized girls, and the power that education has to change the world.
– The Representation Project: If you’re interested in seeing how sexism is played throughout the United States, visit The Representation Project’s website, or watch their films, “Miss representation,” focusing on the daily challenges that women and girls face, and “The Mask You Live In,” focusing on the daily challenges that men and boys face.
The options of getting involved are endless, but you must begin somewhere. Women and girls are our mothers, daughters, sisters and friends. If all girls can get a decent education, the rest of the world will benefit from it. The saying, “it takes a village” rings true – in order to improve the inequalities that girls face across the globe, their right to education will need to become more solidified. Who can begin to push forward for this change that will benefit both men and women? You.
Cover photo courtesy of Ameebo’s Enchanted Isalnd