Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

International Day of the Girl: What It is and How You Can Help

October 10, 2012

International Day of the Girl will be celebrated for the first time this week on Thursday, October 11. Spreaheaded by Plan International for two years and officially declared by the United Nations General Assembly on December 20, 2011 the International Day of the Girl Child (its official title) seeks to bring global awareness to the often difficult plight of girls in developing countries, advocate for girls’ rights, and push for greater gender equality for voiceless girls the world over. This year’s theme for International Day of the Girl is ending child marriage.

As I write this, 25,000 girls, some as young as 7, will become a child bride today according to The top three countries with the highest rates of child marriage are Bangladesh, Niger, and Chad. In some places in Niger child marriage can rise as high as 75 percent according to World Vision.

If those statistics are not startling enough half of all girls in developing countries will become young mothers.

These statistics are particularly troubling because they signify the increased likelihood that young girls who typically become young mothers will not survive childbirth. We know 800 women die in childbirth every day and maternal mortality is greatest among adolescent girls 15 years or younger according to the World Health Organization. Young girls, although forced to become child brides and mothers, often have not fully developed physically due to their age, stunting from malnutrition, or both. Still children themselves, young girls often die during childbirth because their pelvises are underdeveloped or develop fistulas from obstructed pregnancies.

Girls are widely marginalized throughout the developing world. In fact, girls are greatly susceptible to undue violence and face double the likelihood of being beaten by their husbands. Adolescent girls also have a lesser chance of attaining an education when they become child brides and rarely have a say about determining their own futures. All of these factors culminate in a perpetual cycle of pervasive poverty that becomes extremely difficult or nearly impossible to escape.

The International Day of the Girl will address all of these issues by raising awareness about child marriages, lack of educational opportunities for girls, and the statistically increased likelihood of adolescent girls to die during childbirth.  

What can you do to help? Catapult, the first crowdfunding platform for women and girls, will officially launch on International Day of the Girl, Thursday, October 11. On the site, not only can you donate to global programs specifically intended for women and girls but you can create teams to help fund a project together, create a community around these projects and track the progress together. What is most compelling about the platform is all of your donated money will go to programs only, not to overhead costs. Once projects are funded, NGOs will report updates on how your money directly helped women and girls in their programs.

Additionally, the International Day of the Girl conversation is currently happening on Twitter at #DayoftheGirl where you can find facts, events, and campaigns to join. Plan International’s Because I Am a Girl campaign calls for a million raised hands in support of girls’ education. And CARE has created a robust End Child Marriage campaign to spread awareness about the repercussions girls’ face when they marry young.

Want more information about Catapult? I wrote about this exciting new platform on my site, Mom Bloggers for Social Good. 

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