International Day of the Girl Child (IDGC) is an international observance day declared by the United Nations in 2011. This resolution was formally proposed by Canada in the United Nations General Assembly and passed on December 19, 2011. Paragraph 3 of resolution 66/170 states:
“Recognizing that empowerment of and investment in girls, which are critical for economic growth, the achievement of all Millennium Development Goals, including the eradication of poverty and extreme poverty, as well as the meaningful participation of girls in decisions that affect them, are key in breaking the cycle of discrimination and violence and in promoting and protecting the full and effective enjoyment of their human rights, and recognizing also that empowering girls requires their active participation in decision-making processes and the active support and engagement of their parents, legal guardians, families and care providers, as well as boys and men and the wider community.”
October 11, 2012 is marked as the inaugural International Day of the Girl Child. Today, on October 11, 2016 we are celebrating the IDGC with the theme: “Girls’ Progress = Goals’ Progress: A Global Girl Data Movement”. This theme is an unequivocal call for action for increased investment in collecting and analysing girl-focused, girl-relevant and sex-disaggregated data (UNICEF 2016).
The Commonwealth of Learning (COL) recognises that advancing the goals of both women’s empowerment and gender equality are central to ‘Learning for Sustainable Development’. With funding from the governments of Canada and Australia, the Commonwealth of Learning has partnered with community organisations and institutions, in Bangladesh, India, Mozambique, Pakistan and Tanzania to support schooling and skills development for some of the world’s most vulnerable and hard-to-reach women and girls using open, distance and technology-enabled learning. Empowering women and girls to shape their own future has an incredible multiplier effect on economic growth that leads to increased prosperity not just for individuals, but for entire families. Girls empowered are a key driver for sustainable development (COL, 2016).
When considering the theme “Girls’ Progress = Goals’ Progress: A Global Girl Data Movement” it is important to note that, data only matters when it is used to make a difference in the project or programme. For us at the Commonwealth of Learning, it is important to make the data count to make a difference in the lives of the woman of girls who are engaged in our project.
Data matters for making progress, but one may ask: Whose data? Does the girl child have a say in this process and the data which is collected? It is imperative that girls’ voices are heard through the data we collect because, only then, we will be able to address the theme “Girls’ progress=Goals’ progress. Engaging the girls and hearing from them directly what matters to them, what challenges they are facing and what education means to them, will allow us to use the data for the girls to make progress.
In preparation for the IDGC, the GIRLS Inspire team asked girls in Bangladesh, India, Mozambique, Pakistan and Tanzania, ‘what do you aspire to be? Without hesitation we received their bold, confident and proud responses including: I aspire to be, a teacher, a mother, a beautician, a chef and a musician. As I was watching the video which we have put together to share their aspirations and dreams with their peers and the world, I could not help but get inspired and overwhelmed by joy! The image that stayed with me was the girl standing next to a shack, aspiring to become a fashion designer. Despite their circumstances, they know what they aspire to be. The question to us is: how will we help them to make it a reality?
In conclusion, I want to share Nasreen’s story, which is a reminder that we have a long way to go in achieving resolution 66/170 and specifically this section “……as well as the meaningful participation of girls in decisions that affect them, are key in breaking the cycle of discrimination and violence and in promoting and protecting the full and effective enjoyment of their human rights…” Nasreen got married at the age of 12 and today at the age of 20 she has three beautiful children. However, she is no longer married and lives with her parents. She was exposed to violence and abuse and is speaking out against Child, Early and Forced Marriage (CEFM). She has enrolled at a skills centre in Pakistan and said: “my life has become a misery due to early marriage and I don’t want the same to happen to my younger sister or to any other girl in the society.”
As we celebrate the International Day of the Girl Child on October 11, let us remind ourselves of the importance of collecting data in our work so that we can support girls like Nasreen who did not participate in the decision of getting married at the age of 12 , so that we can use the data meaningfully and contribute to ending the cycle CEFM.
The GIRLS Inspire project of COL recognises that girls have the ability to inspire their peers to grasp the opportunities for learning and to reach for the stars. If we use the data to ensure their progress, we will be able to make progress in achieving the sustainable development goals and concomitantly in achieving sustainable development. On the IDGC it is my hope that the messages of the girls in our video from our partners in Bangladesh, India, Mozambique .Pakistan and Tanzania will INSPIRE their peers to take every opportunity that comes their way, to get educated so that they can make progress.
Happy International day of the Girl Child!
1. Commonwealth of Learning .Women and Girls. Retrieved 10 October 2016 https://www.col.org/programmes/women-and-girls
2. Day of the Girl Child – Gender equality – UNICEF. UNICEF. 20 October 2016. Retrieved 10 October 2016 http://www.unicef.org/gender/gender_66021.html
3. Resolution Adopted by the General Assembly: 66/170 International Day of the Girl Child”. United Nations. Retrieved October 10, 2016.