The day started with the news that a 14 year old girl in Pakistan was shot by the Taliban because she promoted access to education for girls. Here is a girl who believes that change starts with one girl and she showed courage.
Members of the United Nations marked the day as the first International day to focus on the girl child because, girls face discrimination, violence and abuse every day across the world and consider investment in girls a moral imperative – a matter of basic justice and equality .The UN focused on the issue of child marriage. Globally one out of seven girls is married before the age of 15.
In Vancouver, the day was observed at the Public Library with over 300 people participating in a public dialogue. Most present were youth with enthusiasm and energy. “The Girl Effect: empowering Girls Globally” was organized by a group of volunteers and supported by the UNA Vancouver.
The local goal was to create awareness and interest in the community to empower girls with access to education, economic independence and health care .The panel of speakers created a real buzz when they shared their own experience growing up in Canada and elsewhere with poverty, oppression, discrimination and abuse and how they succeeded in overcoming the barriers.
The panel consisted of former city councilor Ellen Woodsworth, co- founders of Lunapads, Suzanne Siemens and Madeline Shaw, Suzette Amaya, a First Nations woman who is an award-winning radio host and two Southridge High students Lauren Moretto and Ashley Andreou. Dara Parker, Co-President of UNA Vancouver and Coco Lefoka co-emceed the evening and Daphne Gramham of Vancouver Sun served as the Moderator.
The dialogue brought out local and global issues facing girls and how these are being confronted. Messages such as “speak up and ask for help” “start with yourself”, “ have a voice”, “break the silence”, “girls and women need to be brave and tell their stories”, “starts at home”, “organize”, “be creative and open to different opportunities”, “ Lift up the girl, you change the world” kept coming from those who spoke and the rest clapped in agreement. The energy and support expressed to take this further clearly has the seeds of a beginning movement.
Even though girls are overlooked by many at the local and global level as equal members at homes, schools, playing fields, business, politics and professions, this very first International Day of the Girl Child and ongoing years focusing on empowering the girl child will have to bring hope and change.
by Patsy George