Join Us in Celebrating the International Day of the Girl Child

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By: Katie Millar, Technical Writer, Women and Health Initiative, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Today is a day of celebration: Today we congratulate Malala as a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, which is a perfect way to kick-off tomorrow,International Day of the Girl Child. As Malala fights for equal access to education for girls everywhere, we join tomorrow with girls, women, and organizations around the world to recognize the unique value, needs, and contributions of girls – ones that often go overlooked.

The time of childhood and adolescence for girls is one filled with infinite possibilities for transformative experiences, for better or worse. The International Day of the Girl Child was launched for the first time three years ago by the United Nations as world leaders recognized that girls face many challenges that limit the realization of their potential and violate their human rights.

Of these human rights, is the right to plan a family and the right to survive childbirth. Yet, when we as a maternal health community talk of maternal health and women’s health, do we give enough attention girls? We should. Around the world about 16 million girls between the ages of 15 and 19 and 1 million girls younger than 15 years old give birth each year, mostly in low- and middle-income countries. Unplanned pregnancy has dire consequences for girls. Often they are kicked out of their homes and forced to leave school, living them few, if any, options for a sustainable livelihood. Yet, many won’t even have the chance to experience life after pregnancy since pregnancy and childbirth complications are the number two killer of 15-19 year-old girls.

So what can we do to support adolescent girls in achieving their full potential? The World Health Organization gives the following recommendations:

  • Reduce the number of girls who marry before they turn 18
  • Educate and support communities to reduce pregnancy before age 20
  • Increase access and use of contraceptives for adolescent girls at risk of unintended pregnancy
  • Reduce sexual assault,rape, and coerced sex among adolescents
  • Reduce unsafe abortions among adolescent girls
  • Increase the use and availability of skilled perinatal and intrapartum care for pregnant adolescents

Please join us in supporting adolescent girls around the world, tomorrow and every day. Helping girls to reach their full potential will lead to a more stable, just, healthy, and happy world.

To join us in recognizing The International Day of the Girl, follow#DayofTheGirl and check out the following resources: