Last week was the International Day of the Girl Child. I want to take a moment to reflect on the significance of this day.
In some countries such as Australia, we often take it for granted that girls and women can do what they want and be who they want to be. I see girls going to school, hanging out with their friends, dreaming of any career and partaking in any conceivable hobby, and think nothing of it. For many of us, a girl’s right to health and safety is hard to see as anything unusual. But millions of girls around the world are not so lucky, and fortunately we are not powerless to help.
Why Do We Need a Day for Girls?
Since 2012, the 11th of October has also been known as International Day of the Girl Child. While the girls of today are more empowered than in previous years, teenage pregnancy; early and forced marriage; sexual violence and a lack of access to education and economic empowerment opportunities are still prevalent issues. I was shocked to find out that there are over 700 million women worldwide who were married before the age of 18, and that a third of these women were married before they were even 15. I thought it was terrible that there are still 31 million girls who are out of primary school, and that 17 million of them are not expected to ever begin school. Could you imagine your own daughter or niece, out of financial or practical necessity, being forced to drop out of school before even finishing primary school and being married off at 14?
How Can We Help?
So what does work to improve girls’ participation in education, as well as their learning? Research has found that extra-curricular activities and learning outside the classroom, through programs such as girls’ clubs, can empower girls and improve learning outcomes. Providing information about the career opportunities that education brings also improves girls’ participation. Conditional cash transfers to families and simply building additional schools where there aren’t enough increase participation and learning too. In the case of many children in India, not owning a pair of shoes is yet another barrier to entering school. This was one of my reasons for starting the Moeloco line of flip-flops, as owning (and wearing) a pair of shoes is a requirement for going to school.
HOPE for India
I can see some of these other interventions at work in the HOPE Foundation. For example, HOPE’s Life-Skills Training Institute offers vocational training to marginalised women and youth who may or may not have had any formal education. These include tailoring, baking and IT skills, and reward participants with a certificate and work placement opportunities – showing that they can use their education. HOPE’s Holistic Education Programme has also had dramatic effects in the slum communities they serve. In these communities, 96% of children aged 6-14 are in school, and so are three quarters of 15-17 year-olds. The drop-out rates from formal schools has fallen dramatically, from 75% in 2005 to 13%. Now, HOPE will address the quality of education in formal schools. Support for disabled and street children are also a part of HOPE’s aim to provide inclusive education. We can only imagine the difference made in the lives of the girls – and boys – who benefit from these interventions. An education can be the deciding factor between a life of poverty and oppression, or a life of freedom and possibilities, especially for girls.
Lets Dream Crazy and create awareness to stop this,