Malala Yousafzai started writing an online diary for BBC about life under the Taliban in Pakistan, specifically the ban on girls’ education, when she was just 11-years-old. A few days ago, at 14-years-old, she was shot in the head.
For advocating women’s rights.
Today is the first ever International Day of the Girl‘and stories like Malala’s, along with the fact that girls worldwide are forced into marriage, subjected to violent acts like female genital mutilation and rape, and are more likely to experience poverty and discrimination, make it clear we need one desperately.
I feel lucky to have grown up in Canada, where women have freedom and opportunity. But even here, girls still have higher rates of depression, sexual harassment and dating violence than boys.
I know at least five women personally who have been sexually assaulted. Of the many sexual assaults reported in Toronto over the past few months, 13 of them have been in my neighborhood’leaving me hesitant to go out alone at night. Considering only one in 10 sexual assaults is actually reported to police, that number is actually much scarier.
Yes, girls in Canada are lucky’but we’re not yet free from violence and discrimination.
Today is about recognizing the realities of life as a girl: That worldwide, they are three times more likely to be malnourished than boys, that 70 percent of out-of-school youth are girls, that more than two million girls between the ages of 5 and 15 are trafficked, sold or coerced into the sex trade.
Above all, it’s about the people behind the statistics’girls like Malala, whose only crime is wanting an education.
Want to make a difference in the lives of girls? There’s a lot you can do. Participate in the International Day of the Girl by telling others about it, educating yourself and encouraging others to get involved. For more ideas, check out this list.
-Katharine Watts, Associate Web Editor