The United Nations General Assembly established International Day of the Girl Child to remind us that the dignity and rights of every girl must be upheld not just on this day, but on all days. This year, we especially remember that education is critical to this goal.
According to UNICEF, approximately one out of every three females in the developing world is forced to marry as a young teenager or child, and there is clear evidence that girls who marry before adulthood are more likely to leave school early due to pregnancy. Yet educating girls enables them to fight discrimination and violence, lift themselves out of poverty, and escape the harmful situations in which so many become trapped, all while helping society as a whole and saving lives. It is the key to narrowing income gaps between men and women, and countries like Jordan, Pakistan, and Argentina have shown that when girls get a secondary education they can increase their earning potential significantly. Education also helps prevent child hunger, as providing mothers with just a primary education would save 1.7 million children from stunted growth and malnutrition each year.
As we redouble our commitment to the right of all girls to grow into independent, educated women, we should bear in mind the story of Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani who was shot by the Taliban because she bravely insisted that girls be allowed to attend school. Today I met Malala and was reminded of her powerful speech at the United Nations last July. Speaking for all children, she urged the world to guarantee free education so that girls and boys might “empower ourselves with the weapon of knowledge and . . . shield ourselves with unity and togetherness.” On this International Day of the Girl Child, we should rededicate ourselves to removing the obstacles of bigotry and poverty that hold girls back, and to constructing new platforms of learning and opportunity upon which future progress may be built.
Cross posted from: USUN