International Day of the Girl Child

Today is the first International Day of the Girl Child.

Some people will sigh “Another ‘Day of The…’ Do we need a day for everything? Is it just another day for feminists to carry on?”

Over the last few week’s I’ve really been thinking about the rights of women.

I’ve read great articles on the political debate regarding our Prime Minister (see this fantastic article by Anne Summers but choose the vanilla version or the R-Rated version).

I’ve witnessed in shock the treatment of Kate Ellis MP on Q and A this week (see this article by Ben Pobjie )

And of course we have all been made aware of the terrible crimes against women (including rape and murder) we see on our news. Several of us would have seen the negative comments and victim-blaming that has emerged as a result of this. (I’m not going to link to any of these, however Clementine Ford has written an article about it – warning it is distressing)

When people ask me my thoughts on women’s rights and why I identify as a feminist I reply that I feel it’s my obligation. It’s something I’m passionate about. Simply because I was born in Australia I have had fantastic opportunities for education in safe environments. Not everyone is that lucky and I feel that it’s an obligation of mine to speak out for those women and girls who don’t have the same rights. So what’s the difference between feminism and supporting basic human rights? For me it’s acknowledging that some crimes and discrimination occur purely because the victim is a girl or woman. (I don’t believe you need to be a woman to be a feminist either)

Unfortunately the term ‘feminism’ is so loaded that applying it to an argument is sometimes detrimental, depending on your audience.

So if you’d rather let’s remove the term feminism and just look at a few facts to show why we need this day:

We’ve known for years that the Taliban is against education for women. In fact ‘against’ isn’t really the word is it? What is the word for a group of people so intent on supressing the basic right of education for women that they will shoot a 14 year old girl in the head? The strength shown by Malala and her friends is incredible. I can’t compare it to anything in my life, and I’m sure neither can many other women who were raised in Australia. A day like International Day of the Girl Child reminds us that as children growing up in Australia we (or our sisters, or our partners, or our mothers) didn’t experience this, and our daughters won’t either.

According to the UN:

  • 1 in 3 women worldwide will experience physical violence at some point in their lives and 1 in 5 women are victims of sexual violence in their lifetime.
  • In Australia, violence against women was estimated to cost the economy $13.6 billion in 2008-9 and is estimated to reach more than $15 billion by 2020.
  • In South Africa, a woman is killed every six hours by an intimate partner.
  • Early marriage is a form of sexual violence which sees 60 million girls worldwide (31.1 million in South Asia) forced into marriage before the age of 18.
  • Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting is estimated to have been performed on between 130 and 140 million women and girls alive today.
  • In the Democratic Republic of Congo, an average of 36 women are raped every day.
  • In a national survey by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 15% of Australian women said they had experienced violence by a previous partner and 2.1% by a current partner.

And I’ve posted before about the Because I’m a Girl program which highlights that a woman or girl will reinvest 90% of her income into her family. Taking care of girls helps everyone.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard opened today with this speech reminding us how lucky we are and the commitments being made by the Australian Government.

So call it what you like, gender equality, supporting human rights, feminism…but just don’t ignore that we do need the International day of the Girl Child.


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