The United Nations led initiative, International Day of the Girl Child supports more than 1.1 billion girls worldwide.
There are considerable gaps in data about the specific needs and challenges of girls, globally, and so the theme for this year is “Girls’ Progress = Goals’ Progress: A Global Girl Data Movement”, a call for action for increased investment in collecting and analysing girl-relevant and sex-dis-aggregated data.
The data collected so far has highlighted some of the biggest issues facing girls all over the world, including:
- One in three girls in developing countries (expect China) are married before 18
- Childbirth is the number one killer of girls aged 15-19, with 50,000 deaths annually
- 36 million primary school aged girls are not in school
- A child is 50% more likely to survive past the age of five if she is born to a mother who can read
700 million women alive today were married before 18 and so UN Women works globally to change that. The International Day of the Girl Child aims are to empower women, raise awareness on their rights and implement laws that will prohibit child marriage.
World renowned actress and Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson visited Malawi, in southeastern Africa to bring awareness to the need to end child marriage. The visit provided Watson with a first-hand experience of the work that traditional leaders are doing to bring girls back to school and end child marriage:
“Spending the day in the beautiful country of Malawi has been a moving and inspiring experience for me. Meeting with young girls, who like many in their country, are struggling with poverty and were pressured into early marriage, depriving them of their education in the process, made me realise just how important it is for women to be able to make their own choices.
It’s so encouraging to see how such a harmful practice can be stopped when communities work together to pass laws, and then turn those laws into reality…”
Watson met with the President of Malawi, Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika, a HeForShe Impact Champion. In 2015, he passed the Marriage, Divorce and Family Relations Act, raising the minimum age of marriage to 18. He has ambitiously aimed to implement the new marriage law within five years.
Senior Chief Kachindamoto has also been a prominent figure in the fight to end child marriage. She has annulled nearly 1,500 marriages among her constituents and has developed bylaws with other traditional leaders in order to eradicate all child marriages and gender-related issues.
Watson added: “I applaud and thank our HeForShe Impact Champion President Mutharika for making this issue a priority in his Government, as well as all the traditional leaders—especially Chief Kachindamoto.
She has implemented the annulment of so many child marriages and restored the futures of these girls. With the help and collaboration of her local chiefs, mothers’ groups and religious leaders, she has managed to annul almost 1500 child marriages, sending the girls back to school. President Mutharika has committed to make child marriage a thing of the past in Malawi within the next five years. Because of bold and brave leadership like this things may start to change…”