Today, my thoughts are with all the girls of the world, but especially with brave 14 year-old Malala Yousafzai in Pakistan, who has fought for her and other girls’ right to go to school. Because of her struggle, she was shot by the Taliban. It seems as though she will survive. I sincerely hope that she will make a full recovery and that the person responsible for the attempt on her life will be brought to trial. The courage and strength of Malala is admirable, but children should not have to push political change on their own. We, as adults, have to shoulder the responsibility of ensuring that children can grow up safely and go to school.
Today, we observe the first annual international day of the girl child. It is one of the international days of the United Nations and was established last year, to put focus on the especially vulnerable situation of girls. Observing this day does not mean that we ignore the vulnerability of boys, only that we focus on the special situation, often overlooked, that many girls are in.
Girls around the world are more often subject to marginalisation and neglect, they are worse off when it comes to health and access to healthcare, and they become victims of violence – including rape – more often than boys. They are doubly discriminated against, both because of their age and their gender. Girls the world over are also, to a larger extent, suffering from malnutrition, they have less access to education and are subject to forced marriages. They become victims of human trafficking to a much higher degree than boys, sold and forced into prostitution.
Fighting for girls’ rights once a year is not enough. However, the international day for the girl child can give a welcome push to political initiatives aimed at improving the everyday lives of girls around the globe.