It’s Time to Invest in Girls and End the Cycle of Violence

It’s been two years since the United Nations declared October 11 the International Day of the Girl in response to the problem of neglect and devaluation of girls around the world. By doing so, the world body hoped to galvanize global attention about the importance of improving the lives of girls.

It is ironic that this year’s theme for the day is “Empowering adolescent girls: Ending the cycle of violence.” In 2014 we have witnessed astounding acts of violence against girls, including the kidnapping of almost 300 school girls in Nigeria in April by Boko Haram and the ongoing abduction of girls as young as twelve to be sold as sex slaves or given as prizes to fighters by the Islamic group known as ISIS. Violence against girls doesn’t appear to be going away.

Surprising? Not really. In many parts of the world, including Africa, girls are devalued from birth. Most families prefer boys, who often receive more food, are responsible for fewer chores, and are more likely to be enrolled in school than their sisters. At adolescence girls are subject to the dangers of female genital cutting and early marriage, practices that can lead to severe health problems and even death. A recent UN report found that in West and Central Africa 41 percent of women were married before they reached the age of 18. Adolescent girls have the burden of fetching the family water and fuel wood for fires, often found great distances from their homes, and often take care of younger siblings.

What’s to be done?

Changing societal attitudes is neither quick nor easy, but it can happen. When tradition dictates that a young Kenyan girl should be married off to an older man in exchange for a few cows, her father needs to understand that he can make a better investment—he can invest in her education. His daughter can earn the price of her dowry and continue to earn money for the family long after the cows have died. Maasai Girls Education Fund, an Aid for Africa member, is doing that—investing in Maasai girls by supporting them in school and creating new understanding through example.

Aid for Africa and many of its member organizations identify education as the key to empowering girls. By enrolling and staying in school, a girl has the best chance to reach her potential, overcome violence and attain her rights. Completing primary school is the first step. Completing secondary school is even more important. Girls who finish high school have more choices—economically, through work opportunities and personally, because they are better able to make their own marriage decisions. These girls tend to marry later and have smaller, healthier families.

On International Day of the Girl 2014, let’s commit to empowering girls and ending the cycle of violence through education. It’s an investment in the future that will have a big payoff for girls, the women they become and the daughters they have.

Want to know more about educating girls? Visit Aid for Africa Girls Education. Want to learn which Aid for Africa charity organizations are supporting African girls in school? Visit here.

Aid for Africa is an alliance of charities working to help girls, families and communities in Africa. Many of its member organizations identify education as the key to empowering girls.

Photo provided by Aid for Africa

81 comments

Elizabeth F.
Elizabeth F3 years ago

You go girls!!!

SEND
Robert O.
Robert O3 years ago

Investing in girls and their empowerment benefits society in many ways. It really starts at home with people teaching their children to respect women and see them as equals. Also governments need to make sure that women have the same rights, liberties and protections that all other people do.

SEND
Janis K.
Janis K3 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

SEND
Christine Stewart

Men need to be taught that violence against women is NOT acceptable!

SEND
Yvette S.
Yvette S3 years ago

Thanks for sharing

SEND
Alina Kanaski
Alina Kanaski3 years ago

Thanks for sharing. So true!

SEND
ERIKA SOMLAI
ERIKA SOMLAI3 years ago

noted

SEND
Elizabeth F.
Elizabeth F3 years ago

great information and great inspiration....

SEND
Gene Jacobson
Gene J3 years ago

(continued)the opportunity to even try? We can do better and we have to - we owe it to all the people of this world, most especially to those who have thus far been denied even a seat at the table. I think the ultimate fate of our species is at stake. I think it is time men step up the world over and demand equal opportunity for all regardless gender, orientation, or anything else. Inclusion is what we need, exclusion has failed and is failing as each moment passes. Value all people, educate all people. In fact, go as far as Germany has in another story here, make education free for all as far as each can go. Then even the stars might be within reach. The whole of humanity loses for every day we delay bringing fairness and the right to an education freely to all of us.

SEND
Gene Jacobson
Gene J3 years ago

"Changing societal attitudes is neither quick nor easy, but it can happen."

That is the real issue, and challenge here. These are not recent customs. These are age old ideas that go back to the earliest forms of humanity. In-breeding causes deformed children and threatens the group, so inter-marriage was necessary to ensure the propagation of the species. This is seen in "lower" animal life forms as well. The world is not what it was then and those customs have long outlived their original purpose, but thought has not kept up with the times. The answer is education as always, not only of girls, but of entire societies that are still living as if this were the earth of millennia ago. Superstition, lore combine to keep conditions such that modernity is kept at bay and in that process girls and women are harmed. That can't be acceptable in a modern world and so it is education that must be the key to changing societal norms that are no longer useful but actual hindrances to progress for girls and women. Indeed, even for small groups themselves as in those who attacked aid workers trying to help stop the ebola crisis because no one who went with them returned. Denial that thinking like that exists harms the world at large through the damage it does to in inordinate numbers to girls and women. Education is still the key, who knows what inventions, cures, possibilities have been lost forever because the girls and women who would have brought them to life were denied t

SEND