As a girl you are treated as property and your parents have chosen your future husband for you. This person your parents picked is a stranger more than double your age. There is a high potential to die young due to pregnancy complications. Imagine that you don’t have the power to change any of this.
Last year, The United Nations Women declared Oct. 11 International Day of the Girl Child. The organization’s goal is to bring awareness to the issues girls face worldwide by promoting empowerment and fulfilling their human rights.
Michelle Bachelet, UN Women executive director, said, “Girls, stand up for your rights…equality is good and smart. And to governments and authorities-invest in girls to benefit all.”
The UN Women is focused on child marriage this year. Statistics show that 25,000 young girls become brides every day. One in nine girls between 10 and 14 years old have been forced into marriage.
“I didn’t know about this situation,” said Tania J. Luis, a third-year biology student from Palm Beach, Fla., “and I’m conscious that most people don’t know.”
In a study from CARE, a humanitarian organization, child brides are twice as likely to be beaten by their husbands. Most of them are bought, sold and discarded at the whims of men. These marriages, however, have become illegal in countries such as India, Mozambique and Niger, among other developing countries, where it’s most common.
“They (young girls) shouldn’t get married against their will,” said Gilbert Grantlin III, a first-year criminal justice student from West Palm Beach, Fla. “This is inhumane and disrespectful and should be stopped.”
Issues affecting girls aren’t exclusive to developing countries. Studies show more than half of all female rapes in the U.S. occur before age 18, and one in five high school girls have been physically or sexually abused by a dating partner.
Local women’s organizations, such as the Oasis Center for Women and Girls, focus on personal, professional and economic concerns facing women, girls and their families.
“Every effort to create awareness is an important initiative,” said Haley Cluter, the Oasis Center’s executive director. “We should not isolate ourselves from global issues. We are a global community.”
Specialists said investing in girls can help develop a generation of women – mothers, students, workers and leaders – that will benefit everyone in society.
“When you encourage women empowerment and leadership, you are strengthening your community,” Cluter said.