NEW YORK (TrustLaw)—The United Nations General Assembly on Monday voted to designate October 11 as the International Day of the Girl Child, following a two-year campaign spearheaded by Plan International and sponsored by the Canadian government.
The day will promote girls’ rights, highlight gender inequalities that remain between girls and boys and address the various forms of discrimination and abuse suffered by girls around the globe.
“An international day can provide a very powerful focus for advocacy,” Amanda Sussman, policy director for Plan International in Canada, and the children’s rights organisation’s point person on the campaign told TrustLaw.
“When the efforts are disparate, the power of that argument becomes disparate as well,” she said, adding that anything that encourages a greater focus “brings a greater chance of response” from both governments and civil society.
“By designating October 11th as the Day of the Girl we are all agreeing to put a special focus on the rights of girls throughout the world,” Plan International CEO Nigel Chapman said in a statement.
“We know that in many countries girls get left behind in all areas of life from school to work and many are prevented from fulfilling their true potential by severe discrimination and prejudice.”
Plan International, founded in 1937 and operating in over 60 countries, advocates for children’s rights and sponsors the “Because I am a Girl” initiative to fight gender inequality.
“Women’s empowerment begins with girls’ empowerment,” said Deepali Sood, director of Plan’s" Because I am a Girl” campaign. “Breaking the cycle of gender discrimination requires that we promote and protect the rights of girls.”
The next phase of the campaign for girls’ rights will zero in on education, said Sussman. Specifically, Plan will focus on promoting policy at all levels to support girls’ transition from primary to post-primary education, when many drop out of school, as well as making schools safer, more accessible and more affordable for more girls.
MAKING IT HAPPEN
The turning point in Plan’s campaign to establish an international day of recognition for girls came earlier this year during the meeting of the U.N.’s Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), according to Sussman. Plan brought a delegation of girls from developing nations to New York, where they held meetings with various diplomats and government officials to press their argument for establishing a day for girls.
Plan quoted Lil Shira, a young woman from Cameroon, as telling delegates to the CSW: “Girls are being neglected, marginalized and discriminated in families and society. Most of the girls are ignorant about their rights. The ‘Day of the Girl’ will make girls feel respected, recognized and their contributions valued in society.”
According to Plan, “Research has shown that simply being born a girl can leave a child at a huge disadvantage in life. In the poorest societies a girl faces greater risk of malnutrition, hunger and disease compared to her brothers. She will have fewer opportunities for an education and career. In many developing countries one out of seven girls marries before age 15.”
Rona Ambrose, Minister for the Status of Women in Canada, was among those who met with and listened to the girls in New York, said Sussman.
“They made the case so powerfully in their own voices that she decided to pick it up,” she said.
Ambrose’s support and a letter-writing campaign by girls to Canadian members of parliament resulted in Canada sponsoring the proposal for the “International Day of the Girl Child” at the United Nations.