Over 130 million girls worldwide are currently being denied an education. While the Convention on the Rights of the Child recognizes the right to an education for all children, the girl child is often denied this right due to poverty, discrimination, violence, and cultural practices.
October 11th marks International Day of the Girl Child. The United Nations created this day to “focus attention on the unique challenges and obstacles girls around the world face while promoting empowerment and fulfillment of human rights”. Each year the United Nations picks a specific issue that affects the girl child and builds a theme around it. This year’s theme is “With Her: A Skilled GirlForce” and it kicks off a year-long effort to “engage stakeholders and partners in advocating for and investing in girls most pressing needs and opportunities to attain skills for employability”. Skilled and educated workers are in high demand, yet a quarter of young people, predominantly female, are neither employed nor receiving an education. This puts girls and women in the position to accept low or non-paying jobs. It also puts them at risk for being abused and exploited. Six million girls will enter the workforce within the next decade. Girls futures could be brighter if they’re given the necessary education and skills to be successful.
Girls’ education has always been a topic that I’ve been passionate about, but spending a summer in Sierra Leone working on a girls’ advocacy really lit a fire in my heart to fight for girls and women who were not given the same opportunities I was, including an education.
Girls are creative, intelligent, and innovative beings and have the right to reach their full potential. The benefits of educating the girl child go beyond employability and include economic growth, reduction in child and mother mortality rates, increasing a country’s GDP, and lowering poverty rates. Even with this abundance of benefits, many girls won’t step foot in a classroom because of school fees, cultural norms and expectations, poor infrastructure, and violence and conflict in the community.
Girls who receive an education, may not receive any training in science, technology, engineering, and math or “STEM”. Among the goals of this year’s campaign is to increase girls’ participation in STEM education. In a world fueled by innovation, creativity, and automation, education in STEM is essential. Increasing girls’ participation in STEM is imperative because in the United States alone, 71% of the jobs in 2018 required STEM skills. Unfortunately, women remain underrepresented in STEM fields, with only 16% of females graduates having a STEM degree. STEM jobs have higher earnings, lower unemployment, and are projected to grow by 13% in the next 10 years, compared to 9% for non-STEM jobs. Women’s participation in STEM could even increase economic growth and promote gender equality worldwide. With STEM jobs being some of the highest paying and most sought after fields, girls should be receiving an education focused on STEM skills.
International Day of the Girl Child on October 11th, highlights one very important goal; equal opportunities in education for every girl, everywhere. Girls have the right to an education equal to their male peers and this extends to education and training in STEM. It’s high time to close the gender disparity gap in education around the world. I encourage and challenge everyone to take a moment on International Day of the Girl Child to think about ways they can help girls succeed. Together, we can provide girls around the world a brighter future filled with educational opportunities allowing girls to thrive. As the saying goes, when you educate a girl, you educate the world. Join me in educating the world on October 11th .
What you can do to help girls worldwide on International Day of the Girl Child:
- Change starts with a conversation. Post online using the hashtag #DayoftheGirl or talk to friends, family, or even strangers about how we can empower and support girls around the world. If you’re interested in girls and STEM, check out the “She Can STEM” campaign.
- Support girls. Find local, national, and international organizations that focus on girls’ issues and STEM and support them through donations or volunteering.
- Local Organizations
- National and International Organizations
- Educate and Advocate. Educate yourself and others on girls’ issues and advocate for reform to help alleviate obstacles and challenges girls face every day.
- Celebrate. Check out what your community is doing to celebrate International Day of the Girl Child.
- Mentor. Consider participating in a mentorship program to help girls transition from school to work or break into STEM fields themselves.