As we know all too well, teenage girls today face their own set of issues they must overcome. The statistics surrounding those problems are astounding, and something that will give any teacher or parent of a girl pause:
- In 2010, women who worked full time, year round, still only earned 77 percent of what men earned.
- It might be illegal to discriminate against girls when hiring, but girls are still entering “pink collar” jobs (teaching, childcare, nursing, caregiving, waitressing, etc.) more than others. This may be because of society or family expectations.
- 54% of 3rd-5th grade girls worry about their appearance. By the time they reach high school, that number rises to 78%.
- 70% of girls who give birth drop out of school.
- In one year, almost 1.5 million high school girls are victims of dating abuse.
- More than 20% of all teenagers report experiencing either physical or emotional abuse from a dating partner, and those are just the people that report it.
These are just statistics in the United States. Worldwide, girls face issues such as child marriage, discrimination, lack of access to education, gender stereotyping, and much more. Because of this, the United Nations has created Day of the Girl, a day to raise awareness for the unique issues girls face around the world, and to celebrate girls on their quest to equality. The first annual Day of the Girl will be held on October 11, 2012.
The United Nations decided to create this day around the world because the problems that girls face are uniquely different from the problems adult women face. While many of the issues women see with our society stem from the issues they faced as girls, eradicating these problems when girls are young can lead to women enjoying privileges that are more equal to their male counterparts.
In my school, my girls’ group has spent a great deal of time working to create events for this Thursday’s Day of the Girl celebrations. Using the toolkit provided on DayoftheGirl.org, we’ve created a proclamation that we hope to have an official read at a city council meeting in the near future. My students have also spent a great deal of time writing a lesson plan for teachers to use in their classrooms to make everyone aware of Day of the Girl and gender equality issues our students face throughout their years in high school. On top of that, our administrators will read an announcement during our first period of class so the whole school knows that it is the first annual Day of the Girl and what that means. Although this is a great start, hopefully next year we can do even more.
When I first introduced Day of the Girl to my students and asked them if they wanted to help put some activities together, one of the girls said, “We only get a day? Shouldn’t girls get a whole month or more?” While I had to agree with her — and, in fact, state that, in a perfect and equal world, we shouldn’t have to have a day or a month at all — I do appreciate that the United Nations has created Day of the Girl to begin to raise awareness and start to fix some of the issues young girls face in their lives. The pressure they experience is immense, and these activities are a step in the right direction for girls everywhere.
Photo credit: Thinkstock