The International Day of the Girl Child
|Five year old India girl carried to her own wedding at the dead of night as child marriages are illegal in India.|
At age 11, a young Afghan girl is married off to a 40 year old man, making her only one of more than 10 million young girls who are being forced to wed men old enough to be their fathers or grandfathers every year. . . Although child marriage is against the law in many countries, and international treaties forbid the practice, is is estimated that about 51 million girls below the age of 18 are currently married. In Afghanistan alone, it is believed that approximately 57 percent of girls wed before the legal age of 16. (source)
The 11th of October was the United Nations International Day of the Girl Child. The purpose of this day was to remind those more fortunate of the millions of young girls around the world that are denied a childhood, an education, forced to marry at a very young age, victims of abuse and violence, having their futures determine by others, defenceless and suffering in silence as they have no voice.
Many of these young girls are denied an education as they are not considered worthy enough to receive one. Education is vital for all girls, but even more so in those countries that mistreat the female population. The knowledge and skills gained from education gives them the ability to read and write, to gain better access to health care, gain employment which in turns gives them greater independence and allows them to make decisions in their own lives, rather than the forced decisions made by others who are more likely to exploit them.
Girls living in these third world countries are less likely to marry young if they are receiving an education. According to the United Nations, preventing child marriages protects the rights of girls, helps reduce their risk of violence, early pregnancy, HIV infection, and maternal death and disability (often as a result of pregnancy), including obstetric fistula. Girls who stay at school longer build a much stronger foundation for themselves and for their families.
Here is some sad statistics: every 3 seconds another girl becomes a child bride, 1 out of 3 become a bride before the age of 8 and 70,000 girls before the age of 18 die during pregnancy or child birth related complications. Having a baby can be a death sentence for these girls. (Source, Dr Flavia Bustreo WHO)
Women in western countries tend to take their situation for granted. Our girls have access to education and can go on to higher education (an impossible dream for millions of girls and women around the world), our girls can make decisions about their own lives. They can dream of becoming a doctor or nurse, these young girls living in poverty do not have such options, they are trapped with no way out. We mustn't forget their suffering. We are quick to complain about our governments, but we have no idea of what it would be like to be a girl in some of these countries.
All girls should be allow to dream, to be able to decide their future and this should not be stolen or determined by others.
Photography by Stephanie Sinclair (National Geographic article)
Source: United Nations and World Health Organisation