Commemorating the International Day of the Girl

October 11, 2012
by Allison Grossman, Senior Legislative Associate

Today, global leaders, organizations, and individuals around the world are marking the first ever International Day of the Girl. The response has been remarkable – the White House released a statement that “reaffirms our abiding commitment to promoting the rights and status of girls here in the United States and around the world.” Yesterday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced new initiatives to combat child marriage and improve secondary school enrollment for girls worldwide. The 10×10 Campaign launched a beautiful trailer today for the upcoming film Girl Rising, which exposes the barriers to education faced by 10 girls in 10 developing countries. In Washington, DC, #dayofthegirl has been trending all day on Twitter.

People are paying attention. We’re paying attention because we know that empowering women and fostering gender equality is a human right. And we know the positive impact that gender equity has on reducing poverty and improving the health of families. On average, for a girl in a poor country, each additional year of education beyond grades three or four will lead to 20 percent higher wages. And a child born to an educated mother is more than twice as likely to survive to the age of five. We’re paying attention because we know that strong, vibrant communities must include strong, educated, empowered women and girls.

But unfortunately, we’re also paying attention for another reason. Two days ago, 14 year old Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by the Taliban in Pakistan because she claimed her right to an education – and because she passionately advocated for the right for all girls to go to school. In response to the news, Secretary Clinton said, “I think we should be dedicating our efforts to brave young women, some of whose names we will know and some we will never know, who struggle against tradition and culture and even outright hostility and sometimes violence to pursue their hopes, their God-given potential to have a life of meaning and purpose and make contributions to their families, their communities, their countries, and the world.”

Malala’s brave defiance again reminded me why we are doing this work, and her struggle is motivating me to continue to advocate in her honor for the millions of girls around the world who are still not in school.

Since August, RESULTS volunteers have focused on doing our part in this fight for education by urging the Administration to commit increased funds to the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), by calling out the World Bank’s broken pledge on increasing funding for basic education, and by urging members of Congress to support the Education for All Act to improve U.S. education policy. We must continue to advocate.

Here are three actions RESULTS activists can take to support Malala’s efforts and improve the state of education around the world:

  1. Over the past month, we have been working to hold the World Bank accountable for a pledge made in 2010 to increase basic education support by $750 million. Through a mathematical sleight of hand, they’ve transformed that pledged increase into a meaningless promise where education funding could actually fall sharply. We simply can’t afford to let the World Bank change their pledge – join activists around the country and submit an op-ed or editorial to your local paper calling out the Bank. Find all the tools you need on our blog
  2. Call your member of Congress and urge them to cosponsor the Education for All Act (H.R. 2705) and support the Global Partnership for Education. The EFA Act would help improve the effectiveness of U.S. global education programs. It includes a provision that authorizes the United States to contribute to the GPE, which works in the poorest countries to improve education systems and access – including in Pakistan. Our action sheet has more details.
  3. Talk to your friends. Much has been said to condemn the attacks on Malala and to proclaim the importance of gender equality. But while we know that awareness is critical, we also know that we must take action if we want the situation to change for girls around the world. Who can you ask to call their member of Congress? Who in your community would provide a strong voice for an op-ed on the World Bank’s basic education pledge? I challenge you to commemorate the International Day of the Girl by starting a conversation in your community – to ensure that today’s focus on girls’ equality and education is not forgotten tomorrow. What can you do? Who can you empower?

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