Now into its third year, the United Nations International Day of the Girl Child, held every 11th October, is intended to highlight the challenges faced by girls across the globe. This year’s theme was Empowering Adolescent Girls: Ending the Cycle of Violence.
“I call on all governments to take action to end all forms of violence against girls in all parts of the world,” said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “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.”
Much of the current violence perpetrated against girls and young women is of a sexual nature, with rape and child marriage shockingly commonplace across the globe. According to UNICEF, approximately 120 million girls under the age of 20 — about one in 10 — have experienced forced intercourse or other sexual acts. As many as 15 million girls under 18 are married every year — many of them with little or no say in the matter. These marriages often result in young women having children before they are emotionally or physically ready — teenage pregnancy is the principal cause of death for girls aged 15 to 19.
Unwanted pregnancy is not restricted to teenagers; some 40 per cent of pregnancies worldwide are unplanned. Population Matters believes that all women should have the right to decide whether and when they have sex, get married and have children.
If you believe reproductive rights should be given greater consideration by the United Nations, sign Marie Stopes International’s online petition, which calls on the Secretary-General to “ensure the next development agenda delivers on: achieving women’s rights and empowerment; universal access to sexual and reproductive health & rights; and ending unsafe abortion”.
You may also want to view the Girls not Brides website to find out more about what can be done to end child marriage.