10-11-12 has been designated the International Day of the Girl by the United Nations:
The theme for the first-ever observance of the Day will be “Ending Child Marriage,” chosen because child marriage is a phenomenon that violates millions of girls’ rights, disrupts their education, jeopardizes their health, and denies them their childhood, limiting their opportunities and impacting all aspects of a girl’s life.
Ending child marriage has taken a backseat due to an the shooting of a 14 year old girl on her way to school in Pakistan:
There has been intense public reaction in Pakistan to the shooting of Malala Yousafzai, a 14 year-old schoolgirl, by Taliban gunmen.
Yousafzai, who was seriously injured in the attack, is unconscious while she recovers from an operation. Two other girls were also injured in the attack.
Private schools closed for the day in protest and students gathered to pray for her.
Yousafzai had come to public attention at the age of 11, when she publically criticised the Pakistani Taliban for its violent action against girls’ schools in the area which was then under its control, and became the first recipient of Pakistan’s National Peace Award for Youth.
The government has condemned the attack, with Asif Ali Zadari, the Pakistani president suggesting that Yousafzai should get medical treatment in Dubai. But the teenager does not have a passport and is too unstable to be moved.
There have been many instances of clashes between tribal law, custom and a democratic constitution in Pakistan.
In more than 100 countries, school is not free, and parents of limited resources choose to invest in their sons’ education, not their daughters’. The high rate of child marriage in some cultures means that many girls in developing countries never even have the opportunity to go to school. Worldwide, only 30% of girls are enrolled in secondary school.
And when it comes to overall literacy, there is a gap between males and females worldwide. Though there has been progress over the past decade, there is a 5.1% gap between male and female youth literacy, meaning that fewer young females are literate.
According to UNESCO, “Despite progress, girls and women continue to be disproportionately excluded from education, especially at secondary education level and in the area of adult literacy.”
Our hearts are with Malala and her companions for their recovery.