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The 11th of October was globally observed as the International Day of the Girl child or simply the International Day of the Girl

The day is an opportunity to celebrate the achievements so far reached to create a better level field for girls all over the world but most importantly is an occasion to identify, discuss and strategize on the remaining huge obstacles that mar the creation of equal opportunities for girls the world over.

It is interesting to note know that the celebrations stemming from a grassroots advocacy campaign promoted by the international not for profit PLAN International with its campaign Because I am Girl, acted as a catalyst to promote a special day for girls.

With its Canadian Chapter playing the role of first initiator thanks to its successful lobby with the Canadian Government to pass a resolution at the UN General Assembly, we have an example of how global civil society can  bring a hidden issue to the central stage of global development.

The celebrations should be considered as a platform to reenergize a global campaign advocating for the crucial role girls can play in eradicating extreme poverty and inequalities. 

By getting more investment and stronger social policies, girls and young women worldwide  have a huge potential to turnaround not only local communities, changing for better the societies where they live but will also have a unique role as agents of economic prosperity. Investing in girls and young women can really make business sense.

The theme for 2015 is “The Power of the Adolescent Girl: Vision for 2030” and as stated in a UNICEF concept note, the celebrations should be seen as a call for action:

“UN agencies, Member States, civil society organizations, and private sector  stakeholders should commit to putting adolescent girls at the centre of sustainable development efforts by making the following critical investments in their present and future:

  • Invest in high quality education, skills training access to technology and other learning initiatives that prepare girls for life, jobs, and leadership
  • Invest in health and nutrition suitable to the adolescent years, including puberty education, menstrual hygiene management, and sexual and reproductive health education and services
  • Promote zero tolerance against physical, mental, and sexual violence
  • Enact and consistently implement social, economic, and policy mechanisms to combat early marriage and female genital mutilation
  • Invest in the creation and maintenance of social and public spaces for civic and political engagement, creativity and talent enhancement.
  • Promote gender responsive legislation and policies across all areas especially  for adolescent girls who are disabled, vulnerable and marginalized, and victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation”


(To access to full concept note, please check here


All over the world, many initiatives were undertaken to observe the Day. For example,  the Girl Effect an organization borne out of Nike Foundation’s efforts to promote girls ‘empowerment in developing countries, highlights the plagues suffered by girls living in refugees camps because of wars, famine and persecutions.  


Outside the refugee camps, think of domestic workers abuses, child marriages, and early age prostitution, domestic violence, honor killings.  All over the world, there are millions of  girls and young women being denied their basic rights.  The data available is staggering:


  • Worldwide, more than 700 million women were married as children (below 18 years of age). More than one in three—or some 250 million—were married before 15. And child brides are often unable to effectively negotiate safe sex, leaving them vulnerable to sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancy
  • Every 10 minutes, somewhere in the world, an adolescent girl dies as a result of violence
  • In emergencies, adolescent girls are especially vulnerable to sexual violence, and in some cases, are abducted and exploited for sexual purposes by armed groups 
  • Nearly half (44 per cent) of adolescent girls worldwide aged 15 to 19 think a husband or partner is justified in hitting or beating his wife or partner under certain circumstances




Yet as shown by Girl Effect, we have an unprecedented opportunity to turn around the fortunes of girls in developing countries, considering this new emphasis by the recently approved Sustainable Development Goals.


Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the south African Executive Director of UN Women, in her statement to mark the day, said  “We are determined that it will not take another 15 years to bring these girls better chances in life. We are calling for all countries to repeal discriminatory laws that create barriers for girls, whether to attend school, to access the healthcare they need, to qualify for decent jobs and earn equal pay”.


With SDG 3 focused on health, with SDG Goal 4 strongly advocating for girls ‘empowerment through education and SDG 5 on gender equality, we now have a stronger framework in place to make the world a better place for girls.


The final outcome of this battle will not depend  on one day celebrations around the world nor will it be based on statements from global leaders. Radical change will happen only when families living in poverty will see the benefits of educating their daughters rather than marrying them off at early ages.


Only political resolve doubled with a higher and better engagement from local communities can bring long lasting changes and  defeat common practices detrimental to girls’ development.


Small acts can count a lot and make the difference. A few ideas:



A National Coalition for GIRL

Set up  cross sectors GIRL Coalitions or Networks able to include national, international not for profits and donors. It would be a unique set up that will allow interaction, cooperation and partnerships at unprecedented levels for example local NGOs directly exchanging views with representatives of donor countries. The Coalition, as a loose and informal forum, should be able to advocate for girls related issues at all levels and within all sector wise clusters (health, education etc). By ensuring that its members are represented in all other major advocacy forums, the Coalition can ensure effective inclusion of girls related issues along the entire development agenda. Representatives of business sectors should also be part of the Coalition


Mainstreaming at local level


At the local level, let’s not set up any new committee but rather let‘s include girls related issues in the existing structures like School Management Committees or any other thematic cluster that has been set up. We should stop creating new informal structures but rather work with those already in place. For example, how can you talk and discuss about an educational or health plans without including  special attention on girls? What’s the logic of having a girl committee at school level when the School Management Committee and the Parents Associations are the best places to talk about gender equality?


Celebrations like the Day of the Girls are just a reminder of long term commitment: we all know that there is still so much that can be done and there is no time for complacency.






Position: Co -Founder of ENGAGE,a new social venture for the promotion of volunteerism and service and Ideator of Sharing4Good

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