Copyright © Françoise Herrmann
On December 19, 2011, the United Nations General Assembly passed Resolution 60/170 to declare October 11th International Day of the Girl Child, in culmination of an effort to uncover some of the unacceptable obstacles that girls face, to recognize girls’ human rights worldwide, and to empower them to reach their full potential. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s message on October 11, 2014, fully expressed the outrage and anger that motivates this day of campaigning and activism for girls’ rights. Below, the opening statements of his message and his concluding call to all governments:
“All over the world, an alarming number of adolescent girls are assaulted, beaten, raped, mutilated and even murdered. The threat of violence at the hands of family members, partners, teachers and peers grossly violates their rights, diminishes their power and suppresses their potential.
This violence is exacerbated and reinforced by the multiple deprivations adolescent girls face, including unequal access to education, skills, information, sexual and reproductive health services, and social and economic resources. Girls are subjected to discriminatory social norms and harmful practices – such as female genital mutilation -- that perpetuate a cycle of violence. A culture of impunity allows violence against adolescent girls to continue unabated. Conflict and humanitarian crises dramatically increase the risk of violence, abuse and exploitation. […]
On this International Day of the Girl Child, I call on all governments to take action to end all forms of violence against girls in all parts of the world. Together, we must create a world where violence against women and girls is never tolerated and girls are always empowered to reach their full potential”.[UN– 2014]
On the day before, the 2014 Nobel Peace prize was awarded jointly to Malala Yousafzai (Pakistan) and Kailash Satyarthi (India) for “their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and the right of all children to education” [Nobel 2014]. Indeed, Malala Yousafzai, a young 17-year old Pakistani activist for girls’ right to education, under Taliban rule, was shot three times, on Oct. 9, 2012, after the gunman called her name….to target the right person... Kailash Satyarthi is a prominent activist against child labor and child trafficking, in a world where women and girls account for 75% of all trafficking victims. 27% of all victims are children. Of every three child victims, two are girls, one is a boy. [UN, 2012]
The International Day of the Girl Child, with its strong and urgent message to end violence against young girls and women, and to uphold their human rights, is also celebrated this year at a time when 219 high school girls remain hostage in Nigeria. 276 of them were abducted from their school, 6 months ago on April 15, by Nigerian extremists, intent on “selling and marrying them….” according to some strict interpretation of the Islamic Shariah Law… [ABC News - Oct 22, 2014 and Oct, 18, 2014]… or perhaps getting ransom money, whichever appears more lucrative…
The figures for violence perpetuated on girls are “distressingly high” according to Geeta Rao Gupta, Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF: “An estimated 70 million girls aged 15 to 19 report being victims of some form of physical violence while around 120 million girls under the age of 20 have experienced forced intercourse or other forced sexual acts. At the same time, 70 per cent of girls aged 15 to 19 who had been victims of physical or sexual violence never sought help as many said they did not think it was abuse or did not see a problem.[..] These numbers speak to a mind-set that tolerates, perpetuates, and even justifies violence – and should sound an alarm to everyone, everywhere.” [UN News,2014]
This is an opportunity to set calendar alerts for October 11, 2015. In 2015, the UN will take stock on eight UN Millennium Development Goals, outlined at the UN Millennium Summit in 2000, and reset the horizon for a decade or more - women and girls included --this time with a call for the active support of men and boys [UN - HeForShe].
ABC News (Oct. 22, 2014) Nigeria truce is shaky. No News of abducted girls.
ABC News (Oct. 18, 2014) Cautious optimism over Nigeria’s kidnapped girls.
Nobel 2014 - Nobelprize.org
UN (2014) International Day of the Girl Child – October.
UN (2012) The global report on trafficking in persons