Saturday, August 3, 2013

Everyday is the Day of the Girl Child

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.
October 11 is the International Day of the Girl Child. And it’s the first one.

Why should only one day be set aside to celebrate and pursue the cause of the girl child?

This first “Day” sought to focus attention on two major issues affecting millions of vulnerable girls - the tragedy of child brides and the importance of girls' education. But here's the deal: every single day is a struggle, nearly everywhere in the world, not just for child marriage and the lack of education for girls, but also for much, much more.

On an annual basis, as many as ten million girls are removed from school and forced into marriages they do not choose to be a part of. And these girls are young – nine, ten, eleven. Their childhoods are long dead, as these girls become mothers while they themselves desperately need theirs around to grow up. Girls across the world are subjected to genital mutilation and genital cutting. They cry out so loudly, that you only hear silence. Girls are sexually and physically abused, over and over again, aging before their time without a choice at hand. Girls are deprived of their rightful dues, because, oh well, they’re girls after all. If this is so bad in peacetime, imagine on a war front. Girls are brutally raped, suffering trauma and injury, psychological and physical - that scar them for life. Girls are used as sex slaves – even by the armies of their own country – who should be protecting them; even by the external peacekeepers – who should be protecting them. Irrespective of whether it is wartime or peacetime, girls are sacrificed to preserve “familial honour”. Their “conduct” in choosing a man to marry, or refusing to marry someone, or even in being raped – is believed to be detrimental to the honour of the families. And amongst them all, are those girls who do not exist at all. Their shrill cries from inside the womb as they are dead before they are born – because they are girls, rip the conscience of any normal person.

And yet, all that the world can do is designate one day. And on that one day, we will listen to mighty rhetoric. We will do this for the girl child. We will educate our girls. We will make stronger policy for our girl children. Sure. Be my guest. But what happens when the day’s over, and the next day comes? This international “day” must not be in isolation – but rather, a flag-bearer for the days to come, to spark off stringent action.

Many generations’ worth of cultural ideals colour the mindset of oppressing masses that ill-treat their women. The International Declaration of a Day for the Girl Child may spark off a celebration of the identity of a girl in many developed countries and farsighted nations. But it will be a day like every other for girls who grow up in societies that discriminate against them and harm them.

One day is not enough to obliterate that – though this one day, is the promise of plenty. The International day of the girl child seeks to address the “invisibility” of girls in the global development agenda. This is certainly a step in the right direction – though there is so much to be done. The empowerment of a girl is the empowerment of her family, and the empowerment of her future. A girl child subject to discrimination grows to be a woman abused. And that trend needs to be nipped in the bud. The dedication of a day to this cause is the planting of a flag, a flag that marks the territory of action. Action, for the girl child.