Every year, on October 11, people around the world come together to celebrate the International Day of the Girl. Established in 2012 by the United Nations General Assembly, this day aims to recognize girls everywhere, to address the needs and challenges they face, and to promote girls’ empowerment.
The girl’s empowerment movement has grown significantly since the agenda was first championed nearly 25 years ago. The global community has seen girls push past insurmountable boundaries created by stereotypes and exclusion, turning their dreams into realities. These achievements have been made possible by the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the most progressive policy agenda for the empowerment of women and girls to date. Adopted in 1995, the Platform for Action has been used as a foundation for assessing progress on gender equality. However, girls across the world still face harsh discrimination and abuse. Each year, 130 million girls worldwide are denied education, and nearly 12 million are married before the age of 18 (UN Women, 2019).
As an organization that is located in rural Malawi, where access to education is limited and early marriage is prevalent, we at Determined to Develop honor the importance of educating our female sponsored youth on the girl’s empowerment movement and the role they play in furthering it. This year, D2D’s Girls Empowerment Program hosted a celebration for sponsored female youth to commemorate the International Day of the Girl. Following this year’s theme, “GirlForce: Unscripted and Unstoppable”, the girls were given a platform to discuss powerful women in their lives and how they can emulate these women.
Before festivities began, the girls received a brief history lesson about the International Day of the Girl, the emergence of girl’s rights and female empowerment. They learned about the global movements and achievements that work towards the elimination of discrimination against girls, and how girls of the past have broken down the many barriers set before them. The youth then discussed the ways in which they have seen girl’s empowerment prevail in Malawi, such as the increased presence of women in the political and public sector and of those enrolled in secondary and university programs. They also considered Malawi’s shortcomings on the topic, methods for overcoming these problems and becoming proactive advocates for their fellow females. After a thoughtful discussion, each attending girl shared a story about a female role model in their life. Some of these female role models included former President Joyce Banda, a founding member of Malawi Rose Chibambo, and the first Malawian female lawyer Vera Chirwa. Of course, the stories were not limited to leading ladies – mothers, sisters, aunts, and grandmothers were showcased as local heroes in this storytelling session.
Following the uplifting and inspiring educational session, the girls headed to the beach for a friendly dance competition. The afternoon was lively, filled with crowd favorite Malawian tunes and lots of laughs. To wrap up the celebration, Girls Empowerment Program Manager, Chimwemwe Munthali and her fellow female staff handed out cookies they baked especially for the youth on this wonderful occasion. We do not doubt that with full hearts, minds, and bellies, these girls will be unstoppable drivers of equity and equality in the future – watch out world!