While the Convention on the Rights of the Child addresses the rights of all children regardless of their gender identity, gender inequality often leaves girls particularly vulnerable to human rights violations. Such violations include but are not limited to childhood marriage, female genital mutilation, trafficking, and sexual and/or gender-based violence. Additionally, millions of girls across the world are denied basic education, basic health care services, and are impoverished leading to generational cycles of neglect, poverty, and lack of educational access.
Consequently, in 2012, the United Nations declared October 11th as The Day of the Girl, a day of global observance and action for the rights of the nearly 1.1 billion girls in the world. This year’s theme, “EmPOWER girls: Before, during and after conflict,” acknowledges that girls tend to be particularly exposed following a humanitarian crisis or conflict. The theme stresses the need to consistently value girls’ rights to education, health, and safety while investing in their futures so that we can empower girls around the world to become leaders in their communities.
Consideration for the role of gender dynamics on children’s rights is of significant personal interest. As a graduate student, I’ve grown especially attentive to how the intersection of marginalized identities leads to compounded stressors and unique and often overlooked psychosocial experiences for girls and women. In the US, girls living at the specific intersection of racial and gender minority status encounter several barriers to education above and beyond those of White girls such as increased rates of school suspensions in addition to racial discrimination. Girls identifying as LGBTQ are more likely than non-LGBTQ girls to report more experiences of sexual assault. They also report encountering increased harassment due to the current political climate. Girls experiencing homelessness are found to endorse high levels of trauma and abuse. Similarly, girls with disabilities are disproportionately disciplined in schools, and experience sexual violence, and restraint and/or seclusion. Due to gender inequality rampant across the globe in conjunction with other oppressive systems, girls and women have historically been targets of human rights violations and are often forced to exist within the margins of society.
I view International Day of the Girl as an opportunity to address the specific challenges girls across the world face while presenting a call to action to ensure that girls’ narratives and rights are no longer disregarded or erased. As we continue to educate ourselves about the influence of gender inequality on children’s rights concerns, it is paramount that we commit to advocating for and valuing this vulnerable population long past October 11th. By utilizing our resources to address human rights issues that affect girls year round, we can continue challenging social inequities and take steps to make the world a safer and more nurturing place for our girls to thrive in.
To become more actively involved with this topic:
- Learn how your community celebrates Day of the Girl by visiting DayOfTheGirl.org and join an event in your area
- Attend a UNICEF sponsored event on girls’ issues
- Volunteer your time to local girls’ causes