By Rebecca Hasenfeld, World YWCA Intern from Colgate University.
Girls are important and need to be treated with the equality and respect they deserve. Girls contribute to dictating what the future will hold and play a large part in society. Though this may seem obvious to a young woman from the United States, since I have begun an internship at the World YWCA office in Geneva, Switzerland, I have learned that girls are not guaranteed the same freedoms or rights in many parts of the world.
Amid my research, I was struck by the number of girls who face early and forced marriage. For example, I learned that 14 million girls are married every year before they reach 18, and 1 in 9 girls in the developing world are married by age 15. However, I realized that these issues go beyond the statistics. Women suffer long term impacts, especially in the realms of poverty, education, health, inequality and violence. It reaches beyond the individual and communal levels, stretching globally.
And this is just in one realm. Gender discrimination has many different manifestations. There is also overlap in the issues girls face internationally, and looking at this one problem has only given me a glimpse into the struggles women face.
Growing up as a young woman in the United States, these problems have not played a large role in my life. It has been interesting to learn about the woman and girls who have come into contact with violence and abuse that affects so many of them. It is easy to forget that girls around the world face these great problems, but learning about these different issues has proven to me the importance of awareness.
Having just celebrated the International Day of the Girl and the publishing of the “Girl Declaration,” I have observed the efforts of various organisations to try to acknowledge these issues. The World YWCA, in particular, is a signatory on this document and has played a special role. This participation has showed me that every player matters in a global fight against such a prevalent issue. Recognition of the different problems that girls face puts these issues on the international scene and makes them present in a world that has become smaller and more willing to work together. These efforts have opened my eyes to the different conditions women endure in different parts of the world, but that there are ways to improve them.
Specifically, I am able to see the way joined efforts can create momentum for a common cause. Since the Girl Declaration’s official launch 10 days ago, over 30,000 people have read the Declaration and taken to the web to demonstrate their support. It is inspiring to witness such efforts, individually and globally, to campaign on behalf of girls. I think it is important for there to be a universal movement on this issue as it stretches across the world.
It is promising to see the effort that is put in to events like the International Day of the Girl and the “Girl Declaration,” and this provides hope to many girls around the world. These initiatives invite more work to be done and more support for girls worldwide in the future.