At the moment, there's roughly 1.1 billion young girls around the globe. And even though we've made great progress to make their lives better, there are still serious issues concerning their wellbeing: An average of 15 million girls marry before the age of 18 yearly; every 10 minutes, a teenage girl dies as a result of violence; and 130 million girls between the ages of 6 and 17 are not in school.
That's why, in an effort to recognize these persistent obstacles, the United Nations declared October 11 as International Day of the Girl. The initiative began in 2012, and this year the theme is "With Her: A Skilled GirlForce." The goal is to rethink how girls and young women across the world can transition into the workforce, starting with expanding the educational opportunities available to them.
Educating girls is crucial for them to achieve true equality, says Michelle Obama. The former first lady is celebrating International Day of the Girl with the launch of her new project, the Global Girls Alliance.
"We're seeking to empower adolescent girls around the world through education, so that they can support their families, communities and countries," she wrote in an op-ed for CNN. "The evidence is clear. Girls who attend secondary school earn higher salaries, have lower infant and maternal mortality rates, and are less likely to contract malaria and HIV. And studies have shown that educating girls isn't just good for the girls, it's good for all of us."
From the U.S. and the Dominican Republic to Turkey and Ukraine, there will be events all around the world celebrating International Day of the Girl — and discussing how can we help empower girls everywhere.
"On this Day, we stand with girls everywhere as they inspire, innovate and take charge of their own future," Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Women's executive director, said in a statement. "We celebrate the strength and the potential of the 1.1 billion girls in today’s world who are challenging the status quo, raising their voices against violence, innovating technology to solve global challenges, standing up for the environment, and preparing to lead."
If you want to celebrate International Day of the Girl, here's some things you can do to get involved.
Engage in conversation: Online, you can use the hashtag #DayOfTheGirl to join the conversation or you can visit DayOfTheGirl.org to learn more about ways you can advocate for girls. Offline, you should talk it out with your family, friends, and acquaintances. Ask yourself: In which ways can we support girls today (and always)?
Check out organizations dedicated to empowering girls around the world: There's many organizations taking on these challenges, from ending child marriage, to helping with girls' education, providing healthcare, and fighting poverty. These include the Malala Fund, She's The First, CARE International, Camfed, Girls Not Brides, and the Obama Foundation's Global Girls Alliance. They could use your support, be it through donations or volunteering.
Support the girls in your life: Today, and everyday, remind every girl that you encounter that they're powerful, they matter, and they're an essential part of our future. And don't forget to put those words into action, because it's on us to create a better world for all girls.