The theme of this year’s UN International Day of the Girl Child is “Empowering adolescent girls: Ending the cycle of violence“.
The theme recognises the vulnerable life stage that is adolescence, which plays a huge role in determining whether the path to a girl’s future can be full of promise, or a downward spiral. It also recognises the impact of violence on adolescent girls and how this can compromise their safe and healthy transition from child to adult, and can result in a cycle of violence that continues for generations. Studies have shown that while violence can occur early in a girl’s life, its risk factors – whether physical, sexual or psychological – are heightened once she hits puberty.
Violence against girls isn’t reserved just for the developing world – it happens anywhere and everywhere. There are the physical and sexual assaults on girls in developing countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nigeria and India – often targeted for their attempts to get an education, or attacked due to patriarchal traditions (such as in the case of honour killings, FGM, bride burnings and early marriage). But there is also the abuse that girls experience in more developed countries such as the United Kingdom, America and Canada, on campus, on the internet, and on the streets where girls as young as 12 who are runaways or abandoned are trafficked, forced into drug-use and prostitution.
Empowerment is the key to ending the cycle of violence. When an adolescent girl is educated, has a support network, and economic opportunities, she will grow up to be an empowered women who can better care for herself and her family, increase her earning power, spur economic growth for her community and act as a positive force of change for others. Empowered girls are equipped with the self-esteem, resilience and life skills needed to overcome the debilitating impact of violence.
The link between education and girls’ risk of abuse
Coalition for Adolescent Girls
UNFPA – Focus on Adolescent Girls
Day of the Girl Summit 2014