Education is hope and dignity. Education is growth and empowerment. Education is the basic building block of every society and a pathway out of poverty.” -United Nations Secretary-General BAN Ki-moon
By Nora Fyles, Head of UNGEI Secretariat
October 11 marks the inaugural International Day of the Girl Child. The theme will be “Ending Child Marriage,” to recognize that child marriage robs young girls of opportunities and denies them of their rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides girls of full age with the right to enter into marriage with their free and full consent. For the most part, with child marriage, young girls are denied this right and denied a proper childhood with time for play and school.
Every girl also has the right to an education. Education is one of the most effective strategies to combat child marriage and can open doors for girls, especially as they progress to secondary school. In fact, when a girl finishes secondary school, she is six times less likely to marry young. But this can only happen if they stay in school.
When we remove girls from school to marry early, it impacts their lives profoundly. A new short feature from Camfed – “The Child Within” – portrays the experience of child marriage from a girl’s perspective. Nabena, 15, speaks volumes of the impact it had on her life when she says “My whole being yearns to go back to school.” The film was produced in collaboration with traditional and local government authorities, who are now using it to help lead the fight against child marriage and help keep girls in school.
We have seen great progress over the last few years with more girls attending school than ever before. The initiatives of UNGEI partners such as USAID’s Women and Girls Lead Global and DFID’s The Girls‘ Education Challenge will continue to help a million of the world’s poorest girls have an opportunity to improve their lives through education by promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment worldwide and breaking the cycle of poverty.
On International Day of the Girl, let’s celebrate these achievements and the work being done worldwide by and for girls toward ensuring the basic human rights of girls everywhere. Together we can end child marriage and every girl can have an education.