Every 11 October, the UN marks International Day of the Girl Child to shed light on issues facing the 1.1 billion girls around the world and to help them overcome these challenges. The theme this year, “EmPOWER Girls: Before, during and after crises” points to the need for continual vigilance in ensuring the well-being of girls everywhere.
A report by UNICEF states that a quarter of girls aged 15 to 19 has experienced some form of physical violence. The same report used comparable data from 18 countries to conclude that most adolescent girls reported to have been sexually victimized for the first time from between those same ages.
Girls in conflict zones also face disadvantages due to their gender when it comes to education. UNESCO reports that they are two and a half times more likely to abstain from going to school due to the fear of gender-based violence.
In Canada, we can use this time to address the crises that girls face in our country like, for instance, the continued violence against Indigenous women and girls.
Here in Toronto, ongoing issues include poverty and abuse that can often lead to homelessness, which places girls and women in greater danger of sexual violence and exploitation. According to information provided by Covenant House Toronto, the average age of victims of sex trafficking in the city is 17. Another statistic provided by Covenant House Toronto states that over 38 percent of female homeless youth in Toronto have been victims of sexual assault, with homeless young women being the most vulnerable to sex trafficking. They also note that “girls of all backgrounds and circumstances are exploited,” with some being as young as 13.
There is still much work needed to be done to ensure the rights of girls are protected. Through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the support of our community, however, we can make a difference in the lives of disadvantaged girls and young women.
Use this day to promote the empowerment of girls in your community and across the globe by recognizing that girls matter, and when they succeed, we all do.