October 11 is the International Day of the Girl, a day to celebrate girls’ achievements, recognize the challenges girls face, and empower girls to take action.
This day originated back in 1995–at the World Conference on Women held in Beijing, countries unanimously adopted the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action–the first to acknowledge girls’ rights. Then in December 2011, the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 66/170 and declared October 11 as the International Day of the Girl Child. The first celebration happened in 2012, and has been an annual event for the past 11 years.
Hurdles Still Remain
Girls all over the world have been doing incredible things this year–standing up for girls’ rights, education, period poverty, mental health, representation, healthcare, and the environment. I love to see it, and while empowering girls includes cheering you on, I also believe it involves recognizing real issues and tackling tough topics so you’re aware of them and are more capable of handling them.
Girls today are more powerful than ever, AND many hurdles still remain. Last year on the International Day of the Girl, United Nations Population Fund Executive Director Natalia Kanem stated, “A girl’s life should begin the way every life should: as an open book in which she writes her own story. Yet from the moment a girl takes her first breath, she is already at a disadvantage simply because she was born a girl.”
That statement is a bit tough to hear, and though you may not feel it applies to you, I hope you’ll listen with empathy because there are countless girls worldwide who live under different circumstances.
According to the United Nations, “Nearly 1 in 5 girls are not completing lower-secondary [middle school], and nearly 4 in 10 girls are not completing upper-secondary [high] school.”
“Globally, girls aged 5-14 spend 160 million more hours every day on unpaid care and domestic work than boys of the same age.”
Also the UNFPA stated, “Globally, almost twice as many girls aged 15-19 are not in employment, education or training compared to boys the same age.”
In some countries adolescent girls are being forced into child marriage, which not only takes away her future opportunities, but often results in increased health risks and an unhealthy relationship with her partner.
Multiple countries discourage girls from getting an education, and in Afghanistan girls aren’t even allowed to receive a secondary level education (middle/high school).
Gender equality is not just an issue in developing countries, though. The Pew Research Center reported that in the US in 2022, women ages 16 and older earned an average of 18 percent less than what men did. Put another way, for every dollar a man earned, a woman earned 82 cents, and a woman of color earned even less, per Forbes.
The gender gap also exists in nearly all professions. The American Association of University Women reported women make up only 34 percent of the workforce in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM careers). According to Forbes, less than 9 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are women. UN Women shared that out of the 195 countries in the world, women serve as Heads of State and/or Government in only 31 countries. They also said, “At the current rate, gender equality in the highest positions of power will not be reached for another 130 years.”
Girls Keep Going
Girls in Power
But even despite the multiple hurdles that still remain in the path of girls’ progress, girls and women move forward. This year the 118th Congress of the United States has a record number of women–28 percent, and hopefully more after next year’s election. The number of women in male-dominated professions is increasing around the world. The gender pay gap is narrowing, though slowly.
Girls in Sports
Female professional athletes are actively pushing for equal pay and gender equality in their sports. In 2019 the US Women’s National Soccer team sued the US Soccer Federation over gender discrimination, and in May 2022 the womens’ and mens’ teams signed a new collective bargaining agreement that guaranteed equal pay in US soccer. Then in January of 2023 President Biden signed the Equal Pay for Team USA Act which guarantees equal pay and benefits for athletes who represent the US in global events regardless of gender. The Spanish Football Federation is even making a “conceptual shift” by changing the team name from “de fútbol femenino,” meaning “women’s soccer,” to both women’s and men’s national teams being called “Selección Española de fútbol” or “Spain’s national soccer team.”
Also womens’ sports viewership is on the rise, according to Nielsen, a company that measures media audiences. In fact, last August at a Division 1 women’s college volleyball game between Nebraska and Omaha, 92,003 fans packed Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Nebraska and broke the world record for attendance at ANY women’s sporting event.
Girls Boosting the Economy
Women in entertainment are proving they’re not to be underestimated either. This past summer three women jointly stimulated the US economy–Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, and Barbie. The New York Times reported that Beyoncé’s Renaissance Tour generated an estimated $4.5 billion for the US economy, and Forbes projected Taylor Swift’s Eras tour generated $4.6 billion, as fans attending the concerts contributed to local businesses (hotels, restaurants, shops) and boosted those communities. To put their impact in perspective, their tours each did about as much for the US economy as the 2008 Olympics did for Beijing. These two gals aren’t done yet either, as they both have upcoming concert films–Taylor Swift’s in October and Beyoncé’s in December–and Taylor Swift will resume her Eras world tour in November and return to the US in summer of 2024.
And then there’s Barbie. Director Greta Gerwig’s blockbuster has broken multiple records, including first solo female director with a $1 billion movie, biggest opening weekend of the year, highest-grossing film of 2023 in the US and worldwide, and highest-earning live-action movie globally from a female director.
Girls are a force to be reckoned with and a force for good.
Girls are changing people’s minds and changing the world.
Girls are speaking up and helping others find their voice.
Girls are rising together as they lift each other.
If you ever get discouraged by the hurdles that still remain, that hold girls back, that try to silence them, please consider the girls both past and present who cleared the way for you. Be inspired by their ambition, ingenuity, and resilience. Celebrate girls–both yourself and those around you–in honor of the International Day of the Girl.
Girls Are . . . Poster Printable
To help you remember all of this, I created a “Girls Are . . .” poster for you to print out, personalize, and post on your wall where you’ll see it, remember it, practice it, and believe it — that’s the important part.
If you have a topic suggestion, I’d love to hear from you! Send an email (tweens get the OK from your parents) to hello@EmpowerfulGirls.com .
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