By Elly Belle | Refinery29 | 11 October 2020
A young girl named Helen was married at age 15 to her husband, Jade, who was 50 years old. When asked, Helen said she would have chosen school over marriage, but her family couldn’t afford to pay for education in South Sudan. After marrying, she spent five days labor and survived — a rarity, given that girls who are 15 and younger are five times more likely to die in childbirth than women in their 20s, according to the United Nations (UN).
But Helen's story is unfortunately not a unique one. Worldwide, nearly 1 in 4 girls aged 15–19 years is neither employed nor in education or training. And by 2021, nearly 435 million women and girls will be living on less than $1.90 a day — including 47 million pushed into poverty as a result of COVID-19, also according to the UN. In addition to those startling numbers, 1 in 3 women worldwide have experienced physical or sexual violence. And since the pandemic began, violence against women and girls (VAWG), has become even more intense.
Stories like Helen's are shared by the United Nations to increase awareness and resources for girls in precarious situations around the world — and they’re exactly what inspired the organization to create International Day of the Girl. Each year, the day of observance serves to raise awareness of the many issues that affect girls across the world, and inspire people to actively work to provide them money and resources for a better life.
For International Day of the Girl 2020, the theme is “My Voice, Our Equal Future,” focusing on “the opportunity to be inspired by what adolescent girls see as the change they want, the solutions- big and small- they are leading and demanding across the globe.” According to the campaign, October 11 will center girls demands to live free from gender-based violence, harmful practices, and HIV and AIDS, learn new skills towards the futures they choose, and lead as a generation of activists accelerating social change.
There are plenty of community-based initiatives working to solve these issues and more for girls. We’ve rounded up organizations that you can donate to and support to help young girls around the globe today.
Women Deliver is a leading global advocate championing gender equality and the health and rights of girls and women. The organization focuses on investment — both political and financial — in the lives of girls and women. Specifically anchored in sexual and reproductive health, they advocate the rights of girls and women across every aspect of their lives. They're specifically known for helping to elevate the voices of young women, centering them as the experts and agents of change in their own lives. Donate and learn more here.
She’s The First
She's the First confronts the grim reality that in many places around the world, girls are denied an education, forced to marry young, and are blocked from being leaders. The organization takes a holistic approach to solving these issues, and knows that funding to put girls in school is not the end of the road. She's the First finds, funds, and supports solutions to educate and empower girls while facilitating programs to train community organizations around the world to better support girls. Find out more about how they make a difference and donate here.
Founded by the esteemed Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai, the Malala Fund invests in education programs that help girls go to school to reach their full potential. Yousafzai herself has been an adamant champion of these rights since being thrust into the spotlight when she started speaking out about girls' rights to education in 2012, and was targeted with violence. The Malala Fund invests in local education activists, holds political leaders accountable for allocating resources, and creating policy changes needed to give all girls a secondary education, and more. See how you can be part of the change and donate here.
Girls Not Brides
Too many girls are forced into unwanted marriages each year, all while they're still children. Girls Not Brides is a global partnership of more than 1,000 organizations that are committed to ending child marriage and enabling girls to fulfill their potential beyond being married. Members help to bring more global attention to the issue of child marriage, and call for laws, policies and programs that will make a difference for girls around the globe. Find out more about becoming a member and donate to members' projects here.
Equality Now was founded by lawyers who wanted to confront the sexual exploitation, violence, harmful cultural practices and systemic inequalities that violate girls' rights and prevent them from living a full life. The organization confronts and works to change laws around sex trafficking, female genital mutilation (FGM) and more. According to the organization, more than 50 of the sexist laws Equality Now has highlighted have since been repealed or amended by their governments. You can help change the systems that work against girls by learning more and donating here.