11 October 2012: Who says girls are weaker section of the society? Girls and young women can not only be an immense source of strength and support for their families and friends, but can also contribute to bringing about positive changes in society. There is no better example of this than that of 14-year old Malala Yousafzi, one of the world’s youngest and most persuasive advocates for girl’s education from Pakistan who was recently shot by the Taliban. Malala campaigned for girl’s education in the Swat Valley of north-west Pakistan after the Taliban took over the Valley and ordered girls’ schools to close. She also started a small fund to support Pakistani girls from impoverished families to get an education. Nominated in 2011 for the International Children's Peace Prize, Malala has won the National Peace Prize in Pakistan.
Despite an equal potential and power that girls posses, as young Malala’s life portray, millions of girls across the world are leading difficult lives. Many are not allowed to go to school. Many are compelled to work at an early age to support their poor families. Many become young mothers due to early marriages. Many are verbally and sexually abused. Many are deprived of good health care and development facilities.
To recognise girls’ rights and the unique challenges that girls face around the world, the United Nations has decided to declare and celebrate October 11 as the International Day of Girl Child. For its first observance, this year’s Day focuses on child marriage, which is a fundamental human rights violation and impacts all aspects of a girl’s life. Child marriage denies a girl of her childhood, disrupts her education, limits her opportunities, increases her risk to be a victim of violence and abuse, jeopardizes her health and therefore constitutes an obstacle to the achievement of nearly every development goal and the development of healthy communities. Globally, around one in three young women aged 20-24 years were first married before they reached age 18. One third of them entered into marriage before they turned 15. More than 10 million young girls are forced to wed men old enough to be their fathers or grandfather every year. Marking this Day, the United Nations urges and calls upon Governments in partnership with civil society actors and the international community to take urgent action to end the harmful practice of child marriage.
Global March Against Child Labour, saluting the courage and spirit of young Malala, extends its support and shares the vision of the International Day of Girl Child. To enable girls to develop and realize their fullest potential, states, civil society and international community need to make greater efforts for the protection, promotion and fulfillment of their rights. Of outmost importance is improving access to good quality education and ending exploitation of girls as currently, 32 million girls of primary school age and 34 million girls of lower secondary school age remain out-of-school, and 88 million girls aged between 5-17 years are working in unhealthy and unsafe conditions in agriculture, factories, sweatshop, etc. as child labourers.