International Day of the Girl is an opportunity for us to celebrate, empower and support women and girls. It reminds us of their resilience and ability to overcome challenges at times when conflict has greatly impacted their lives and those of their communities.
The theme of this year’s International Day of the Girl is ‘With Her: A Skilled Girl Force.’ The theme draws on the fact that a quarter of young people – most of them female – are currently unemployed, and more than 62 million girls around the world have no access to education. We believe that knowledge is key to empowering girls, enabling them to become active citizens and strong leaders in their communities.
To achieve this, we support girls in conflict affected areas and provide them with opportunities to empower them and gain the skills to build brighter futures, resist violence, and contribute to peace.
The majority of the lives lost during violent conflict are civilians, many of them are those of women and girls. Girls are often the worst affected by conflict, exposed to rape, sexual violence, enforced prostitution, and forced marriage, among others. Additionally, the poverty, discrimination and violence that women and girls face can limit their participation in social and political life in many ways.
Today, we highlight the need to support girls as agents of change and champions for gender equality in their communities.
Everyone can be a peacebuilder
Every day, we work alongside our peacebuilding partners worldwide to reduce the impact of war on girls, and challenge all acts of violence or discrimination against them. Worldwide, girls aged 5 to 14 spend more than 160 million hours more on household chores than boys the same age do. Globally, one in four girls are married before 18. Through our work, we aim to transform harmful gender norms and contribute to the creation of more equal and inclusive societies.
On International Day of the Girl, we highlight some of the steps that we are taking towards achieving greater gender equality; from championing voting rights in Pakistan to building livelihoods in DR Congo, we support girls experiencing conflict, so that their voices are heard and contribute to stopping violence and building lasting peace. Our goal is to support peacebuilders of all ages and genders to transition from war to sustainable peace by addressing the root causes of conflict in their communities and becoming agents of change.
For example, we work with our local partner in Somalia to develop training workshops that give young women a better and brighter future. In Somalia, Sahra runs a small tailoring business with three girls she met on a course run by our local partner SADO (Social-life and Agriculture Development Organisation). In Northern Nigeria, Zainab works at a youth centre run by our local partner PIN (Peace Initiative Network) to support young people to gain practical skills and turn away from violence.
Beyond training activities run by our local partners, girls often show astounding courage and ability when conflict affects their lives. They are often called upon to act beyond their years and support their families. Girls often take on the role of comforting others, using their initiative to craft and create livelihoods, and showing tolerance and understanding in places where it might be hard to find. Their actions and their energy matter.
“Women and girls have a unique ability to build bridges and to overcome differences between opposing communities. Women are not only victims of conflict; they are drivers of peace. Women’s voices must be heard if peace is to last.” – Gulalai Ismail, Co-Founder of Aware Girls, our partner in Pakistan.
Survivors, not victims
Our focus this International Day of the Girl is one of resilience and survival. Instead of talking about girls as victims of conflict, let’s talk about those who, in the face of unimaginable circumstances, are survivors, are role models, are resilient, courageous and inspiring peacebuilders.
The actions of girls like Sahra, Zainab and countless others show how working at the grassroots level to raise awareness of and tackle the root causes of conflict is key to eradicating it.
Like every day, this International Day of the Girl we call for attention to be paid to the girls, boys, women and men building peace on the front lines of conflict, challenging stereotypes and developing practical solutions to bring long lasting and sustainable peace.
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