Every year on October 11, the United Nations celebrates the Day of the Girl. This year’s theme focuses on technology and education. Many of the U.N.’s goals for highlighting education are admirable; after all, we’ve seen recently in the news how Malala Yousafzai, the 16 year old Pakistani, was shot in the face by the Taliban for promoting education for girls and women.
Cultural prejudices are not the only issues facing the education of girls. There are problems with transportation, family priorities (being able to afford to educate only one child – typically a boy), sanitary issues (girls missing school due to the lack of sanitary supplies for their menstrual cycle), and marrying off girls at young ages. It doesn’t take any leap of intellect to know that by educating girls, poverty recedes. (more…)
Today, October 11, has been declared the International Day of the Girl Child by the United Nations. According to the Day of the Girl Campaign located in Washington, DC, this day “serves to recognize girls as a population that faces difficult challenges, including gender violence, early marriage, child labor, and discrimination at work” for females under 18. Admirably, this day seeks to draw attention to global issues such as the high drop-out rate of girls from school, child marriage, and human trafficking.
One organization, Plan International, is simultaneously launching their “Because I am a girl” campaign. Their goal for this campaign is to reach 4 million girls: “improving their lives with access to school, skills, livelihoods and protection. We will also achieve these improvements through better family and community support and access to services for girls.” For Plan International, these services include sex education at the primary school level, contraceptives, and “population growth” education.
There is a paradox in these pro-girl campaigns. While the support of girls’ education and the call to end child marriages are admirable, much of the developing world is suffering from a “daughter deficit” – a noticeable lack of girls in their societies. The United Nations notes that there are an estimated 200 million females “missing” in the world today due to abortion and post-birth infanticide. These pro-girl campaigns are missing a lot of participants.
China, with its harshly imposed one-child policy, accounts for many missing girls. For cultural reasons, the Chinese typically want that one child to be male. Women in other cultures are de-valued; they cost a family money, rather than bringing in money. Sex-selection abortions are routine in India, while at the same time rural, poorly-educated Indian women are used as surrogates – essentially renting out their wombs – for high-paying Western “consumers” who want babies.
This gendercide is poignantly portrayed in the documentary “It’s a Girl”. The film’s website notes that those words – “it’s a girl” – are the three deadliest words in the world today.
As the trailer points out, there is systematic machinery in the world that seeks to eliminate girls. But let’s be clear: this is not a machine that is out-of-control. In fact, it is very much controlled – by humans who make choices. There are those who offer sex-selection tests so that abortions on baby girls can be completed as soon as possible. There are those who choose to conduct those abortions. There are those who traffic in unwanted baby girls, selling them on the black market to people desperate to adopt or to human traffickers.
It is right to celebrate the lives of girls. It is right to want all young ladies to be educated, healthy, cared for and treated well from the moment of conception to natural death. That’s not our world, though. Not yet. Celebrating a day for girls is a good thing, but a better thing is recognizing how pitiful it is to celebrate them on one day, and routinely abort them every day. We know these “missing girls” could grow up to be mothers, educators, inventors, business women, health-care professionals, speakers – leaders of families, villages, societies. The best thing we can do is to not simply celebrate girls, but change hearts and minds about the value of girls in every part of the world. That would be something to celebrate.