International Day of the Girl Child

{Photo credit: Rui Pires.}Photo credit: Rui Pires.

We call on you to celebrate the girl child, read and support the Girl Declaration—a call to action for the post-2015 development agenda to prioritize girls and stop poverty before it begins—and help educate and empower the girl child in all of us. Many of us are shaped by what we experience as children. For those in high-income countries, the world of the girl child is often full of possibilities and options. However, for many in low- and middle-income countries, the girl child lives in a world fraught with harsh realities and limited choices. To understand the journey of women, we must look at the girl child not only as a period in one’s life but as one which continues to live in all of us as we reach adulthood and beyond. "I was not put on this earth to be invisible."

While global health and policy efforts to protect young girls from early or forced marriage are increasing, millions of girls are forced into early marriage every year. Pictured: four Senegalese girls. {Photo credit: S. Galdos/MSH.}Photo credit: S. Galdos/MSH.

If you think that child marriage is not an issue in the twenty-first century, think again.  In developing countries, 82 million girls who are now ages 10 to 17 will be married before their 18th birthday. Over the past decade, 58 million girls in developing countries -- one in three -- have been married under the age of 18; 15 million -- one in nine -- were married by age 15.

These girls are often married against their will, despite national laws that prohibit marriage until the age of 18, and numerous international declarations, conventions, and global conferences that “guarantee” the rights of girls, like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Senate Passes Preventing Child Marriage Act

Child marriage is increasingly becoming a hot topic within the realm of global health -- and influencing U.S. domestic and global policy.

The International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act (S. 414) -- reintroduced in the U.S. Congress in February 2011 --- passed on the Senate floor by way of voice vote on May 24, 2012. (The bill also passed the Senate unanimously in December 2010.)

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