Today is International Day of the Girl Child and I’m working from home with a sick girl of my own. Luckily, she’s only dealing with seasonal allergies, not recovering from Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). And she’ll only miss one day of school, rather than being taken completely out of school at her ripe old age of eleven to be a child bride.
Sound extreme? It’s not in many places around the world.
Globally, it is estimated that between 100 and 140 million girls and women have experienced some form of FGM, and that every year about three million girls, most younger than 12, are at risk of undergoing this dangerous procedure.
A CNN story today reports that in Pakistan, almost one-fourth of the country’s girls find themselves in unions or marriages by age 18. And, India has more child brides than any other country in the world, with 47 percent of all of the country’s more than 600 million girls married before their 18th birthday.
So what? So, moving beyond the emotional element of such statistics, think of the economic impact.
In India, adolescent pregnancy results in nearly $10 billion in lost potential income, according to statistics from The Girl Effect. In Uganda, 85 percent of girls leave school early, resulting in $10 billion in lost potential earnings. By delaying child marriage and early birth for one million girls, Bangladesh could potentially add $69 billion to the national income over these girls’ lifetimes.
Yet, girls were left out when the UN was drafting their Millennium Development Goals that are meant to form a blueprint to meet the needs of the world’s poorest. So today, girls from Egypt, Burkina Faso and Nepal presented the Girl Declaration to the UN.
If I’d been at my office today, I’m proud to say I would have seen a screening of the film “Girl Rising” compliments of Dell’s support. To help “Pay it Forward” they are encouraging employees to contribute to girl-related causes during the month of October. By leveraging the Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network of 10,000 women around the world, and employees like me, Dell hopes to track support for 1 million females by the end of 2015.
What can you do? Even though this day is almost over, you can keep the momentum going. You can sign in support of the Girl Declaration. You can host your own screening of “Girl Rising.” Or, here are 11 other ideas for action.
Improving girls’ health and education helps us all because they will play a crucial role in solving the world’s problems.
We must protect our girls from those who would exploit their bodies or their minds.