October 11, 2020 is celebrated as International Day of the Girl Child. Children face many challenges, but girls are at greater risk of certain challenges, such as:
◦ human trafficking
◦ child marriages
◦ physical and sexual abuse
◦ missing school to do chores
Child marriages of girls are tolerated in many cultures. Many turn a blind eye to it and the implications for girls. Boys don’t have to worry about being married off to an older woman as her third or fourth husband. This act alone stifles the girl child in many ways: she stops getting an education (if she was getting one to begin with); she starts child-bearing—sometimes before her body has fully developed to bear children; her future dreams and goals are often killed; and she and her children are often stuck in a never ending cycle of poverty.
We have to do more to protect all children, but especially girls. Too many of them are living below their potential due to structural and cultural inequities. These failures around the world don’t only negatively affect girls or the women they will become; they also negate the society achieving its full potential through fully protecting girls and helping them in harnessing their full capabilities. A girl married off too soon ends potential contributions she could have made to science, education and engineering.
Did you know that educating a girl child has far reaching socio-economic impacts on not just her immediate family, but the entire community? That’s because girls are more likely to take care of their parents, the elderly and their siblings. Education, therefore, is one of the greatest tools that can benefit girls, particularly those in developing countries who may be trapped in a cycle of poverty. An educated girl leaves no one behind—she takes everyone along with her as she succeeds.
Let us all do our part to protect and empower girls to achieve their full potential. Protect her from predators; help her to go to school; keep her safe from emotional, sexual and physical abuse; provide for her so she doesn’t see marriage as a way out of economic hardship; and teach boys to do their share of household chores so that the burden doesn’t fall squarely on girls’ shoulders. No society achieves its full potential by minimising and underutilising a part of its Human Resources. Men and women, boys and girls, are the complete measure of humanity’s hopes and dreams. Don’t leave girls out of the equation.
©️ Larisa McBean