Why we won’t shut up about girls' rights | ActionAid UK

Why we won’t shut up about girls' rights

Michelle Lowery

Communications Team

Ahead of tomorrow's International Day of the Girl we've just heard the incredible news that inspirational schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize 2014 for her campaigning work on education and child rights. This makes her the youngest ever winner of the prize. It's a brilliant achievement and fantastic recognition that the world is paying attention to the voices of girls. 

Two smiling Nigerian girls wearing school uniform standing outside their girls' club in the school playground in Kaduna state, Nigeria
Friends 16-year-old Simon Abigail (left) and Precious Luka, 15 (right) standing outside their girls' club in the school playground in Kaduna state, Nigeria

It’s been a huge summer for women and girls taking to the stage to champion their rights. Emma Watson talked at the U.N about the need for gender equality, this summer we saw two high profile conferences on women and girls’ rights, and this weekend another UN day – International Day of the Girl Child – throws light on the inequality girls face globally. Why do we need so many of these ‘days’ or moments?

Women and girls face appalling injustices every day. Being forced to marry a man they don’t love when they should be in school, having their vaginas mutilated to prepare them for marriage and not having access to education or the opportunities many of them so desperately want.

Celebrities are championing girls’ rights

It’s great that many celebrities have used their voices in 2014 to bring the subject of violence against women and girls to the forefront of people’s minds. Angelina Jolie, Emma Watson and Frieda Pinto are just some who are opening up the conversation to new and wider audiences.

The power of celebrity is at its best if it causes people to say enough is enough and demand governments, policy makers, leaders and communities work to change the situation for young girls around the world.

It’s vital we don’t shut up. Consider the facts:

  • 1 in 3 women will be raped or assaulted in her lifetime
  • 280 million girls alive today are at risk of child marriage
  • Up to 140 million girls worldwide have been subjected to female genital mutilation.

And so this weekend on International Day of the Girl we have another chance to speak out for the girls who potentially can’t. Take inspiration from the girls here who, with ActionAid’s help, are working to create a different future away from early forced marriage and children.

A life after female genital mutilation in Kenya

Rosaleen,16, from Pokot in Kenya is just one of many girls who have been forced to undergo female genital mutilation by her parents. She had to drop out of school because her parents couldn’t afford to pay her school fees and as female genital mutilation is often seen as a precursor for forced marriage this was the likely path for Rosaleen.

However, Rosaleen sought help from the ActionAid-funded Kongelai Women’s Network and she fought to stay in school to continue her education.

Encouraging girls’ education in Nigeria

16-year-old Simon Abigail works with an ActionAid funded girls club in Nigeria, where 10 million children are out of school.

Simon - girl's club member

Simon takes what she learns in girls clubs and reaches out to girls in her community to teach them about the importance of going to school rather than staying home and having children at a very early age. 

Escaping early marriage in Uganda

Martha and her friends ran away from the threat of early forced marriage and female genital mutilation and fled to the Kalasi Girls School in Uganda, where over three quarters of the pupils are girls who have run away from home.

Martha chelengat(centre) and her collegues ran away from a forced marriage. They can now smile again after ActionAid fully intergerated them into school.

Around three new girls arrive at the school every single day, where with ActionAid’s help girls like Martha are empowered to speak up for themselves and their fellow girls.

You can make a difference to more girls like Simon, Rosaleen and Martha this International Day of the Girl Child.

Photos: Kate Holt/ActionAid, ActionAid.