First International Day of the Girl Child

October 11 celebrates the First International Day of the Girl Child, a day to remember the human rights of every girl child born and to promote the empowerment of women, aiming for equal opportunities in a world where equality among citizens is a birthright, in a world free from gender violence and discrimination.

A girl is a powerful agent of change for a better and equal world, but her potential is constantly undermined by violence and discrimination. At UN Women, we believe in investing in girls, and we are joining other UN agencies to focus on child marriage on the International Day of the Girl Child.  (UN Women)

UN Women promotes several initiatives to this end, raising awareness about issues of equal rights and fighting gender violence through the campaign Say No to Violence. Almost five and a half million actions have been started under this initiative to combat gender violence in a world where between 15 and 66 per cent of women may face abuse of some kind in their lifetime, depending on where they are born. No continent is exempt.

Child marriage is another target for activists around the world: over one third of women aged 20-24 years of age have been married before reaching the age of eighteen. For UN Women, "Child marriage is a fundamental human rights violation and impacts all aspects of a girl's life. It denies a girl of her childhood, disrupts her education, limits her opportunities, increases her risk of violence and compromises her health."

In fact if we look at the world around us, violence against women has reached pandemic proportions and it is the duty of everyone, including and especially men, to put a stop to it. Up to 70% of women experience violence in their lifetimes at the hands of men. More women aged 15-44 die from domestic violence than from cancer, malaria and road accidents combined; in South Africa, one woman is murdered every six hours; in the USA, one third of women killed are murdered by intimate partners.

640,000 women and girls are victims of trafficking every year; 100 to 140 million women and girls have been subjected to female genital mutilation; 3 million girls every year in Africa are still subjected to this; 60 million girls are forced to be child brides every year; one quarter of women and girls suffer violence during pregnancy; over half of women abused are kicked or punched in the abdomen. In São Paulo, Brazil, there is an assault on a woman every 15 seconds. In the European Union, 40 to 50 per cent of women experience sexual harassment.

And we call ourselves civilised?


Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey



Joint Statement by UN Women, UNFPA and UNICEF on the International Day of the Girl Child 2012


Joint Statement by the Executive Directors of UNICEF, UNFPA and UN Women on the International Day of the Girl Child 2012


October 11 marks the inaugural International Day of the Girl Child. This day focuses attention on the need to address the challenges girls face, promote their empowerment and fulfil their human rights.

This year we have come together to focus on child marriage.

Child marriage is a violation of human rights, and it is prevalent in several regions of the world, particularly in rural areas and among the most disadvantaged communities. Globally, around 1 in 3 (or approximately 70 million) young women aged 20-24 in developing countries (excluding China) were married before their 18th birthday.

The consequences of child marriage are as serious as they are wide-ranging. Girls are not only at risk of early and unwanted pregnancies, but the complications associated with pregnancy and child-birth are among the leading causes of death for girls aged 15-19 worldwide.

Child brides are also more likely to experience discrimination and violence. Too often, they have little or no ability to leave abusive partners and secure the social and legal support they need to improve their situation.

The collective burdens of housework, childcare and family pressure can often prevent or prematurely end the education of a child bride. While girls with low levels of education are more likely to be married early, those with secondary education are up to six times less likely to marry as children, and more likely to send their own children to school.

Education is one of the best strategies to protect girls against child marriage and provide them with the opportunity to build a better life for themselves, their families and their communities.

If we can end child marriage, we can change the lives of girls everywhere. We can help them enjoy their childhoods; enrol them in school; protect them from complicated pregnancies and births. We can keep girls safe. And as we do all of this, we help break the cycle of intergenerational poverty.

We call on governments, civil society organizations, the private sector, faith-based groups and the international community to accelerate efforts to:

Enforce legislation to increase the minimum age of marriage for girls to 18;

Improve equal access to quality primary and secondary education;

Mobilize girls, boys, parents and leaders to change discriminatory gender norms and create alternative social, economic and civic opportunities for girls;

Support girls who are already married by providing them with options for schooling, sexual and reproductive health information and services, including HIV prevention, livelihoods skills and recourse from violence in the home;

Address the root causes of child marriage, including violence against girls and women.

We must galvanize political commitment and dedicate resources for girls to realize their rights and fulfil their potential. Together we can end child marriage.


Anthony Lake
Executive Director, UNICEF

Babatunde Osotimehin
Executive Director, UNFPA

Michelle Bachelet
Executive Director, UN Women


What can you do?


Source: UN Women

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Author`s name Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey