October 11 2017 is International Day of the Girl. This is a United Nations initiative with the theme being: ‘EmPOWER Girls: Before, during and after crises’. Throughout 2017 there has been growing conflict, instability and inequality, with 128.6 million people this year expected to need humanitarian assistance due to security threats, climate change and poverty. More than three-quarters of those who have become refugees or who are displaced from their homes, are women and children . Among these, women and girls are among the most vulnerable in times of crisis. Displaced and vulnerable women and girls face higher risks of sexual and gender-based violence, as well as damage to their livelihoods ; girls are 2.5 times more likely than boys to miss school during disasters ; and displaced girls are often married off as children in an effort to ensure their security. (4)
Some of you may be reading this and feel disconnected from this situation because you can’t contemplate something like that happening in Australia. Sadly many girls live in situations here where they are exposed to domestic violence, sexual assault and because of this, their education is disrupted; they suffer with anxiety and depression and they are repressed. How can that be in the 21st century in a wealthy country like Australia? What can we do at the grass-roots level to address that? Encouraging women to be visible in positions of power to act as role models for girls; teaching boys to respect girls and women; not tolerating misogyny; educating girls about sexual health, understanding their bodies and their anatomy; valuing girls and women.
And how can we as a country not shudder with horror at the thought of young girls – millions of them around the world – being displaced and suffering just because of where they are born? The idea of such a day is to expose the situation and encourage us all to contemplate the facts. The United Nations plea on the International Day of the Girl Child, is to encourage us to commit to investing in skills-training and education for girls and livelihood activities for young women around the world who are facing crises. Far from being passive recipients of assistance, these girls are leaders who will use the skills that they develop today to rebuild their communities, and create a better future.
Now there’s a thought!