Sunday, October 11, 2015

Celebrating International Day of the Girl by Promoting Gender Equity in Childhood Education

 “Empowerment of and investment in girls are key in breaking the cycle of discrimination and violence and in promoting and protecting the full and effective enjoyment of their human rights” -United Nations Resolution 66/170

Just two years ago, the UN declared October 11 as the International Day of the Girl Child to raise awareness about all issues concerning gender inequality around the world. "This is a day when activist groups come together under the same goal to highlight, discuss, and take action to advance rights and opportunities for girls everywhere," said the official U.S. Web site created to promote this day.

What the Millennium Development Goals Achieved
One of the most important ways to uphold the rights of girls is to promote universal childhood education, an area where we saw some improvement between 1990 and 2015. According to Goal 2 of the Millennium Development Goals, the literacy rate has improved globally from 83 percent to 91 percent between 1990 and 2015, and the gap between women and men has narrowed.

That is only modest progress, and significantly more remains to be done in the area of ensuring that all girls around the world are able to have access to primary and secondary education. Two big obstacles remain in the way: poverty and war/conflict. According to the MDGs, In the developing regions, children in the poorest households are four times as likely to be out of school as those in the richest households. In countries affected by conflict, the proportion of out-of-school children increased from 30 percent in 1999 to 36 percent in 2012.

A third obstacle is cultural attitudes.  One of the biggest promoters of universal childhood education is Malala Yousafza, who was shot and almost killed by Taliban militants in Pakistan on her way home from school. Yet,  her survival only made her a greater global advocate for universal education.

Following Through with the Global Goals for Sustainable Development
The Global Goals for Sustainable Development, which replaced the MDGs in 2015, continue to place a high priority on childhood education for all girls and boys around the world. Goal 4 (Quality Education) states some important targets to be achieved by 2030.
  • Ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and Goal-4 effective learning outcomes
  • Ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and preprimary education so that they are ready for primary education
  • Eliminate gender disparities in education and ensure equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the vulnerable, including persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and children in vulnerable situations
CARE's Atlanta Celebration (Photo: Kristi York Wooten)
Beyond Education
While promoting education remains the most important way to uphold the rights of girls around the world, Goal 5 (Gender Equality) of the Global Goals also lists some important steps that individual countries and the global community must promote between now and 2015.
  • End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere
  • Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation
  • Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation.
CARE, Catholic Relief Services and other non-governmental organizations put together special activities to celebrate International Day of the Girl. CARE organized its big celebration in Atlanta, The CARE Walk for Lasting Change, on Saturday, October 10. The event began with musical entertainment and activities at the Outdoor Theater in Atlanta’s Historic Old 4th Ward Park, followed by a rally and a one-mile walk on the Atlanta Beltline Eastside Trail. 

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