Equality Now celebrates the first Day of the Girl in 2012 with members of The Arts Effect NYC.

I was not put on this earth to be invisible. I was not born to be denied. I was not given life only to belong to someone else. I belong to me.
– From The Girl Declaration, courtesy of The Girl Effect

The theme of the 2nd annual International Day of the Girl Child, ‘Innovating for Girls’ Education,’ is timely given that Malala Yousafzai, who was fighting for her life right before the first day of the girl child, has become a force to be reckoned with in the movement to achieve universal education for girls. She has galvanized millions of people around the world to take up the cause and ensure that girls’ voices are heard and their rights protected.

Malala Yousafzai & Yasmeen Hassan

We join in the mission of Malala and all girls around the world who are demanding their rights, while noting that education must not promote, but rather teach children to question the gender stereotypes and harmful traditional practices that have been handed down over generations becoming embedded in cultures. It must be provided in a context that is supportive of gender equality and girls’ ability to have aspirations, careers and political ambitions on par with boys. Without such environments, education may not lead to empowerment. For example, in many countries of the Middle East and North Africa region, girls’ educational achievements, particularly at higher levels, have outstripped boys, yet such achievements are not resulting in employment opportunities or participation and leadership in the work force or in the political sphere.

At Equality Now we are continually inspired by brave girls who, despite great personal risk, are standing up for their rights in order to improve situations for themselves and other girls like them. These girls deserve to be supported as they are the leading agents of change! These include girls from the Pokot district in Kenya who are fleeing their homes to escape female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage; teenaged survivors of sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation from the U.S. who lobbied the New York State Assembly for improvements to the trafficking law; a 12-year-old child bride from Saudi Arabia who refused to accept her fate and successfully petitioned for a divorce; and a 13-year-old from Zambia whose successful civil case against the government is leading to the development of guidelines in schools to protect other schoolgirls from rape by teachers. Girls themselves are innovating ways to ensure that their voices are heard. We must support their activism and fix the broken legal and social systems that are stopping them from reaching their full potential.

11 October was proclaimed as a day to recognize the unique challenges that girls face daily. It is important that the momentum demonstrated on this day of advocacy and action carries through to every day. Equality Now is committed to standing up for the rights of all girls – to keep them safe at home, at school and in their communities – and we hope you will be too. Start today by signing our Action to protect Kenyan girls from FGM and child marriage!