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15 million girls under the age of 18 are married every year - that's one every two seconds

Today is the sixth annual International Day of the Girl.

A Syrian refugee girl attending school during 2013's International Day of the Girl
A Syrian refugee girl attending school during 2013's International Day of the Girl
Image: Lucy Lyon via Rolling News

POLITICAL FIGURES NEED to stand up and be allies to girls suffering from gender inequality across the world, according to Human Rights Commissioner Emily Logan.

Today is the sixth annual International Day of the Girl, a 24-hour period set aside to celebrate girls and to highlight, discuss and advance their lives and opportunities across the globe.

Plan International, which organises the day, has released a report of research conducted in Columbia, Uganda and Spain which outlines that gender inequality is still rampant in societies across the world.

It highlighted the fact that access to education shouldn’t be determined by a child’s gender, yet 130 million girls globally are out of school and 15 million girls of primary school age will never even enter a classroom.

A key obstacle to girls participating in school life is child marriage, according to the report. Every year, 15 million girls under the age of 18 are married – one every two seconds.

‘He can learn too’ 

A number of testimonies from young girls were included in today’s report, providing a first-hand insight into their struggles.

“I see that my parents still have the mentality that the girls have to learn to do this [the housework] for their future. And my brother, being a boy, hardly knows how to do anything,” Julia (14) from Spain said.

“At home, I have to sweep, wash the dishes and wash my brother’s clothes. He was brought to the world as a trophy that is cleaned and taken care of and it makes me feel bad. How is it possible that I have to do everything and also have to wash his clothes? He can learn too,” Paola (16) from Colombia said.

Take Over Day

In light of these statistics, the theme of this year’s day is #GirlsTakeOver, an initiative happening in over 60 countries across the world which is aiming to make girls and young women everywhere more visible than ever before.

“Today is a symbolic day. In addition to having strong laws and strong policies with strong education, girls also need allies. They need people who are going to support them at all levels,” Logan said.

In Ireland, Plan Ireland is sending girls to ‘take over’ different spots across the country, including Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald’s office and eBay. This is being done to demonstrate that girls are equal to boys.

“Today is bringing attention to gender inequality between children. We often talk about gender inequality in adults, but we don’t talk about it as much in children,” Logan told TheJournal.ie. 

Really, the idea is to amplify their voice, to demonstrate to them, to girls themselves, but also to people in public life the importance of caring and educating girls at a very young age to help them reach their potential to flourish.

“We’re looking for allies. We’re looking for people in public life who will stand up and speak out for girls and that’s what it’s about,” she said.

Highlighting the importance of this year’s theme, Logan said that it’s about recognising young girls and women’s own agency and their own ability.

“It’s not about doing things for them but it’s about inspiring and supporting them to do it for themselves. Very much, the whole dynamic is not ‘I can do this for you’, it’s a move away from people thinking they know better than them and support them to do it for themselves,” she said.

According to the testimonies of the young girls in the report, many of them have seen changes in their own attitudes through programmes like Plan International’s Champions of Change programme.

Some of the girls spoke about communicating the message of gender equality to their peers and highlighted the need for political engagement to gain allies.

“Politicians are role models to a number of young people, community and clan members. They can contribute to the situations of girls and boys through chairing community dialogues to discuss with the community how to advance gender equality and also address other challenges in the community,” Odongo (16) from Uganda said.

Similarly, 16-year-old Adriana from Colombia said:

The president, the mayor, the governor and other leaders, they know rights and can create a society where we have equality. They have lived in a world where they know what it feels like. Also parents, because everything starts from home.

More information about how to get involved in International Day of the Girl can be found here.

Read: ‘Power to the Peepee’: Dutch women are protesting about a lack of female public loos

More: ‘Where is my name?’: Afghan women want husbands to call them by their own names in public

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