Friday 11th October was International Day of the Girl Child – created to remember the challenges facing, and the progress made by and on behalf of the world’s most vulnerable citizens. Girl children in developing countries face a triple burden – hindered by poverty, they face discrimination on account of their gender and their voice is ignored on account of their age.
Thankfully, things are changing. In the year 2000, the global community vowed to promote gender equality and empowerment of women. One of the most important aspects of this is girls’ access to education. It has been shown time and again that educating girls has a multiplier effect on development – educated girls protect themselves better from disease and exploitation, join the labour force and increase family income, and have fewer and more educated children, so the multiplier effect continues into the next generation. This is captured in the African proverb, “If we educate a boy, we educate one person. If we educate a girl, we educate a family – and a whole nation.”
Thirteen years after the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were set, one their greatest successes is that the world has achieved parity in primary education between girls and boys. Here in ChildFund, thanks to your support, we get to see individual success stories first hand. Take Nátacia, pictured below. Nátacia was lucky enough to become sponsored at the age of six. This not only guaranteed her access to education, but allowed her to benefit from a host of additional services that other children can only dream of, such as workshops and tutoring with ChildFund Brazil. These, as well as the correspondence Nátacia and her sponsor have kept up over the past 12 years, have made Nátacia who she is today – a bright, confident and socially responsible young woman.
She told us,
“In the letters, my sponsor always encouraged me to study and to have good grades at school and to go to college. I’m thankful to her, from the bottom of my heart, for the huge encouragement that she has given to me and all her dedication through all these years. Thanks to her advice, I started studying towards a Human Resources Degree at the beginning of this year.”
It’s these success stories that make our work so rewarding, and we’re grateful to both Nátacia and her sponsor for the inspiration they give us on a daily basis. Globally, there is equal cause for optimism – the incredible story of Malala Yousafzai and her campaign for girls’ education has brought even more attention to the issue of female education and the role it can and should play in transforming societies.
But optimism should not breed complacency. There is a tremendous amount of work still to do. The successes at primary school level have not been replicated at secondary level, and women are still largely restricted to more vulnerable and less secure forms of employment. Their participation in government is greatly restricted (even in Ireland) and violence against women and girls continues to undermine efforts to reach all development goals.
If you want to play a role in surmounting these global challenges; if you want to be part of the global success story that is women’s empowerment, there is no better way than to sponsor a child. Sponsorship helps not only the individual child, but their whole family (through workshops their parents attend, for example), and by extension, whole communities and societies. You can also help girls by adding your name to the Free From Violence and Exploitation petition, telling world governments to enshrine child protection in the successor to the MDGs.
Today is a day for reflection, for celebration, and for action. We thank all of you who already contribute so much, and we urge those considering sponsorship to take that leap of faith. There really is nothing better than knowing that you are making a difference in the world, and in the life of one girl child, as Nátacia’s sponsor well knows.