Every year, Oct. 11 is recognized as International Day of the Girl Child. The United Nations adopted a resolution in 2011 to acknowledge this day to recognize girls’ rights and acknowledge the inequalities and struggles girls face worldwide. With a different theme each year, the day helps to promote girls’ empowerment.
Yesterday, International Day of the Girl Child focused on the digital gender gap. Currently, 2.2 billion people below the age of 25 do not have access to the internet at home. Girls are more likely to be affected by this, as men are 21% more likely to have access to the Internet globally. Along with less access to the internet, girls’ education and careers are not prioritized in many places.
During the past 1.5 years, our massive reliance on digital platforms (such as Zoom) for education, work and more, proves that a lack of Internet access is a significant problem. And this is just one of the major inequalities girls face across the world.
International Day of the Girl Child has a great purpose — by highlighting the challenges that girls worldwide face, non-governmental organizations are able to raise money to support girls and more people become aware of gender inequalities and how, especially in developed nations, people often take amenities for granted. However, it cannot be something that we only pay attention to for a day or a week. Fighting for gender equality must be ongoing.
This must also happen worldwide. Girls face inequalities all over the world, not just in select nations. Outside of the digital gender gap, girls face discrimination trying to receive an education and in the workplace with gender wage gaps. Girls face disproportionate rates of violence, especially in the forms of intimate partner violence and sexual violence. Girls are affected more significantly by climate change. And girls often face difficulties when seeking medical care, particularly with reproductive healthcare.
All of these inequalities, and many more, are why this day must be known worldwide and efforts to achieve gender equality must go beyond this day. Although much work has been done improve girls’ lives like eliminate child marriage, address violence against girls and protect girls’ safety online, it is not enough.
When fighting for gender equality, it is immensely important to view these issues under an intersectional lens. A term coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw, intersectionality refers to the fact that people have different identities that overlap and add to one another, giving people different experiences of discrimination and privilege. Girls worldwide may be affected by their other identities, aside from gender, including but not limited to their race, religion, sexuality, ability and economic stability.
Through intersectionality, it is apparent girls worldwide are affected by problems differently, and therefore should be addressed in different ways. For example, girls from lower income communities face the effects of climate change disproportionately to girls with greater economic stability. This is due to the fact that many of these girls have to collect water for their household, which becomes more and more difficult as water sources are compromised. These two identities, gender and economic stability, intersect to create an already difficult circumstance even harder.
With all the problems girls face worldwide, it is imperative International Day of the Girl Child is not quickly forgotten — the problems it highlights are important for people to understand and remember throughout the year. Gender inequality is not something only certain groups of people must work to fix — it is a global issue everyone must continuously work to combat, whether that is through creating awareness, raising money to support girls or helping girls worldwide use their voices to fight for equality. In the days following International Day of the Girl Child, we must remember the fight for gender equality must be ongoing.