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International Day of the Girl Finally Dawns

Girls Haiti21st December 2011: International children’s development charity Plan Ireland is delighted that the United Nations has made the decision to officially recognise October 11th as the ‘International Day of the Girl Child’.

In order to highlight the unique challenges and issues facing girls in many developing countries, Plan has led the call for this world day as part of its ‘Because I Am A Girl’ campaign.

Pictured right: Young school girls attend class at the Girls National School, Jacmel in Haiti

“By naming October 11th ‘Day of the Girl’ we are all agreeing to put a special focus on the rights of girls throughout the world. We know that in many countries girls get left behind in all areas of life from school to work and many are prevented from fulfilling their true potential by severe discrimination and prejudice”, said David Dalton, CEO of Plan Ireland.

Mr Dalton said Plan Ireland applauded the Canadian Government which sponsored the proposal at the UN. They became involved after Plan brought a delegation of girls and young women to the UN's Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in New York, earlier this year.

Plan Ireland has also been involved in lobbying the Irish Government, TDs and MEPs to gain their support of the proposal to institute an International Day of the Girl at the UN level.

Plan has played a critical role in lobbying at EU level through developing a Written Declaration in support of an International Day of the Girl. 393 MEPs, including 10 Irish MEPs, all from diverse political and geographical backgrounds signed the Declaration. This document has been recently approved, sending a powerful message on the importance of gender equality to European leaders and citizens.

The day will stand alongside other major international days, such as International Women’s Day (8th March), as a moment where advocates for the rights of girls can draw the world’s attention to their vital cause.

Lil ShiraMany girls and young women globally have been calling for a day of recognition for some time. At the UN Commission on the Status of Women, Lil Shira, a young woman from Cameroon, said: “Girls are being neglected, marginalised, and discriminated in families and society. Most of the girls are ignorant about their rights. The ‘Day of the Girl’ will make girls feel respected, recognised and their contributions valued in society.”

Pictured left: Lil Shira at the UN Commission on the Status of Women

2011 Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee has been a long standing supporter of Plan’s Day of the Girl campaign. Gbowee said: “I think the international day of the girl child would be a great day for the issues of the girl child to be brought to light for media institutions, for government institutions, and for educational institutions to take the time to think: Girls are the future of the world and we definitely need a day dedicated to their issues.”

Research has shown that investing in girls and young women has a disproportionately beneficial effect in alleviating poverty - not only for girls but for their families, communities and entire countries. Girls who spend an extra year at school will on average increase their lifetime income by 10 to 20%.

David Dalton, CEO of Plan Ireland continued, “Women's empowerment begins with girls' empowerment. Breaking the cycle of gender discrimination requires that we promote and protect the rights of girls. At the same time we also need to equip them with the skills and opportunities they need to transform their lives and those of their communities.”

Research has shown that simply being born a girl can leave a child at a huge disadvantage in life. In the poorest societies a girl faces greater risk of malnutrition, hunger and disease compared to her brothers. She will have fewer opportunities for an education and career. In many developing countries 1 out of 7 girls marries before age 15.

For more information on Plan Ireland’s work and the Because I am a Girl campaign, visit www.plan.ie or call 1800 829 829.