In a world filled with challenges, there is one day that serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of supporting and empowering girls globally — the United Nations International Day of the Girl Child. This day, commemorated on October 11 each year, sheds light on the unique struggles and obstacles faced by millions of girls around the world.
As longstanding advocates for women’s equality, and supporters of World Vision, a Christian humanitarian organization with a presence in nearly 100 countries, we feel a deep sense of responsibility to draw attention to this vital issue.
The struggles young girls continue to face worldwide are staggering:
- According to UNESCO, 129 million girls are out of school each year, including 32 million of primary school age and 97 million of secondary school age.
- Each year, nearly 12 million girls under the age of 18 are married as a result of factors including poverty, social norms, and the perception that marriage will provide “protection.” Child marriage often damages a girl’s mental and physical health and development by, among other things, preventing the completion of her education, forcing her into early childbearing, and limiting her future social and economic opportunities.
- Millions of girls endure lifetimes of violence and discrimination simply because of their gender.
The U.S. is not immune to the challenges facing young girls, with a recent CDC report showing that nearly 3 in 5 (57%) of teen girls felt persistently sad or hopeless in 2021, representing a nearly 60% increase and the highest level reported over the past decade.
We believe the International Day of the Girl Child offers an opportunity to acknowledge that the future of our world depends on the well-being and empowerment of girls everywhere — because extreme poverty can’t be ended when half the people in the world are held back.
One way we can all play a role in empowering the next generation of girls is by modeling kindness in action within our own families. In recent years, we’ve had the privilege of traveling to various countries and meeting girls who are overcoming immense challenges. Their resilience and determination inspire us every day. We have seen firsthand how education, healthcare, and emotional support can change the trajectory of a girl’s life, allowing her to fulfill her potential and contribute positively to her community.
By educating our children about the significant struggles faced by others, and especially young girls, we can raise a generation that is committed to making a difference in the world. How do we do this? Begin with the basics: Educate your kids about the realities faced by girls around the world. Share stories of resilience and triumph, but also stories of hardship and inequality. Discuss the challenges girls face, from limited access to education, forced marriage and lack of economic opportunities in many societies, while opening the door to conversations about your own children’s struggles.
Empathy in action can take many forms, from fundraising for organizations that support girls’ education and well-being to advocating for policies that protect the rights of girls. It can be as simple as encouraging your children to be respectful and inclusive, challenging stereotypes, and being supportive friends to girls in their own communities. Small acts of kindness such as contributing to the World Vision Gift Catalog can have a ripple effect, leading to significant changes.
As we approach this year’s International Day of the Girl Child, let us all commit to fostering empathy and kindness in our children. Let us teach them that their actions can make a profound impact in the lives of girls around the world, and in their own lives as well.
By doing so, we are not only preparing them to be compassionate and caring individuals but also contributing to a more just and equitable world for all.
By Patricia Heaton and Melissa Joan Hart and and Alexa PenaVega, Op-ed contributor
Originally published on The Christian Post
(c) The Christian Post, used with permission