On 17 November 2011, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution (A/RES/66/170) designating 11 October as the International Day of the Girl Child. Ending “child” marriage was chosen as the theme for the first International Day of the Girl Child.
Over 30% of girls in developing countries are married before 18 years of age; around 14% are married before the age of 15. Early marriage is a risk factor for early pregnancy and poor reproductive health outcomes. Furthermore it perpetuates the cycle of under-education and poverty.
The day will promote girls’ human 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.
Speaking on the announcement, the UNGEI Secretariat Head Cheryl Gregory Faye said “This day acknowledges that despite progress achieved, discrimination and violence against girls and violations of their human rights still persist. We must continue to raise awareness of the challenges that millions of girls face every day simply trying to claim their right to an education and other rights.”
“With three years remaining, the costs of the failure to meet the Millennium Development Goal targets are high and will most likely be disproportionately borne by the world’s most vulnerable and poorest girls,” Faye continued. “Only through girls’ full and equal participation in all areas of life, starting with a quality education, can we hope to achieve gender equality and fundamental freedoms”.
Research has shown us that an extra year of schooling increase a girls’ eventual wages by 10 to 20 percent, ensures they marry later and have fewer, healthier children, who themselves get educated.
The United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI) is a partnership of organizations committed to narrowing the gender gap in primary and secondary education. It also seeks to ensure that, by 2015, all children complete primary schooling, with girls and boys having equal access to free, quality education. UNGEI was launched in 2000 at the World Education Forum in Dakar, Senegal, by then United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan in response to a troubling reality: Of the millions of children worldwide who were not in school, more than half were girls – a reality that continues today.