“October 11 is not just a day; it’s a movement. A worldwide revolution.” – dayofthegirl.org
Today we should celebrate. We should rejoice. And most importantly, we should act. Two years ago, the United Nations declared this day, October 11th, as the International Day of the Girl Child, a day to raise awareness about all issues concerning gender inequality around the world.
And there sure is so much for us to talk about when it comes to gender inequality. One in seven girls in developing countries is married off before the age of 15. Girls are not property.
Only 30% of girls in the world are enrolled in secondary school. By 2015, females will make up 64% of the world’s illiterate (adult) population. Girls are not inarticulate or unintelligent.
1 in 5 high school girls has been physically or sexually abused by a dating partner. Girls are not objects.
Here are home, the objectification of girls begins at an incredibly young age, based on what they see in the media and hear at home. More than half of 3rd-5th grade girls worry about their appearance and 37% worry about their weight. Girls are not paintings.
If you wonder where that comes from, try watching some television with your children. More than half of all music videos out there feature a female portrayed exclusively as a decorative, sexual object. Females continue to be underrepresented in top roles in film too, unless in positions of submissiveness. Females even make up less than 1 in 3 speaking characters in children’s movies.
The injustices, inequalities and stereotypes begin as young girls and affect them for a lifetime. Just 16% of top leadership positions in Fortune 500 companies is held by a woman. As parents, we often tell our children that they can “be anything they want to when they grow up.” But is that really the truth?
Today, and every day, we have the opportunity to help girls around the world and here at home. Let’s not waste it, because they need our help.
Let’s celebrate the girls and women who are working to change the perpetuating of stereotypes. People like Ellen Degeneres, whose fantastic new line of gender neutral clothing is taking the fashion world by storm. Like Emma Watson, who represents HeForShe Campaign, a movement that calls for both genders to advocate for equal rights. Like Geena Davis, who has been working relentlessly in recent years to gain gender equality in the media. Like Ronda Rousey, who is breaking down gender barriers with both her talent in the ring and her moxie out of it. Like Angelina Jolie, who uses her platform to raise awareness of humanitarian efforts around the world. And like Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani student who spoke out for girls education and was shot in the head by the Taliban on her way home from school. Yet a gunshot could not silence her. It only made her voice stronger. In 2014, Malala started The Malala Fund to support girls around the world.
What can you do to get involved, not just on October 11th, but every day, to support gender equality, you ask? Well, you can:
* Stop supporting media that perpetuate gender inequality. Make magazines and other media outlets pay for their dirty deeds. If you’re peeved about negative portrayals of girls in magazines and in the media, say so! Change the channel! Raise your voice! As girls, you don’t need to see that. As boys, you don’t need to see that. And as parents, you don’t need to perpetuate stereotypes amongst kids of any age or either gender.
* Make a statement by the brands you support. Know which companies are empowering girls and women, and which ones are merely perpetuating the stereotypes.
* Reach out to other girls and women to share your knowledge and talents in a way that benefits all of us. Teach them. Empower them. Give them the confidence to break down barriers.
* Rule the school, office and neighborhood. Put yourself in a position of power. Encourage others to do the same. Don’t let yourself be held back.
* Make sure the playing field is even. Let everyone know at your school and office know that gender equality is a must.
* Don’t stay silent. Contact your lawmakers to tell them what you want them to do to promote gender equality. Write letters to the editors, to lawmakers, to companies, to entertainers, and those who are perpetuating unnecessary stereotypes.
* Share your story. Remember that every time you stand up for yourself, you stand up for other girls too.
* Support creators of change. He Named Me Malala is a new film that tells the story of Malala Yousafzai. Go see it. Take your family. Let everyone be inspired by her strength, and understand how even one person can make a big difference.
He Named Me Malala is in theaters now. Get more information or purchase tickets at henamedmemala.com. You can also learn more at malala.org, or follow along on social media via Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.
If we are going to end discrimination, violence, and oppression against all women and girls everywhere, we need to act today to promote empowerment and gender equality. Let’s show them what little girls are really made of.