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Girls sing on the first day of school in the rebel held town of Maaret al-Numan, Syria. September 24, 2016. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi

By Meera Damji

October 11 marks the International Day of the Girl, which the United Nations began commemorating in 2011. Every year, this day is celebrated to honor the girl child.  But, have you ever wondered why it is so important to celebrate girls? Why do we dedicate an entire day just honor girlhood? Well, the reasons are many and the devotion is valid.

Girls around the world are mistreated and discriminated against in a manner that goes far beyond them being pressured to meet society’s unrealistic expectations of beauty. The issues facing young girls are far more serious than that.

Female genital mutilation (FGM), sexual abuse, forced marriages, human trafficking, female feticide, and being denied the right to an education are just some of the issues that young girls face today.

According to the U.N., more than 700 million women alive today entered into marriage under the age of 18. Of these, 1 in 3 were married under the age of 15.

Child brides tend often to be uneducated on contraception, sexual transmitted diseases (STDs) and even the reproductive system, and thus have a higher chance of being diagnosed with STDs, high-risk and early pregnancies, etc.

The U.N. states that 200 million girls around the world were below the age of five when they underwent FGM. Two out of every three children facing human trafficking is a girl.  India, because of female feticide, has a 940 female for every 1000 male sex ratio according to a 2011 consensus.

The UNESCO Institute of Statistics reported in 2013 that 124 million girls still remain out of school. In the case of the Syrian war, nearly 1.8 million children and adolescents were out of school by 2013, erasing all education progress made since the start of the century.

In addition, according to U.N. women, it is said that almost 1 in 10 girls have been sexually abused in their life. Furthermore, some 246 million children around the world experience violence at school, with girls at a higher risk of facing sexual violence, harassment and exploitation.

International Day of the Girl Child to honor girls around the world, then, is important as it serves as a reminder that we still have a long way to go when it comes to securing their basic rights.

 

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