In April 2011, American singer-songwriter Beyoncé already sang it: ‘Who run the world? Girls!’. Perhaps a coincidence, but later that year, in December, United Nations declared that starting from 2012, they’d annually observe the International Day of the Girl Child. Their aim: to empower girls worldwide so that they can have better education, survival rates, protection from child marriage and sexual assault and access to health services. In other words: preparing them to run the world.
International Girl Day 2018 events
As is the case every year, the International Day of the Girl Child will be held on 11 October. In 2018, this is a Thursday. Talks, marches and other events will take place all over the world, with the main one being Plan International’s Global Girls’ Summit 2018, which is held already on Wednesday, October 10 in Brussels (Belgium).
This summit will support girls’ leadership by bringing together more than 500 of the world’s leading minds in business, government, entrepreneurship, science, sport, arts and media. Together, they celebrate the power of girls and call for increased action to support girls’ activism and leadership. Plan International will also be organising #GirlsTakeover actions in several countries, including Australia, Ecuador, Honduras, France and Norway. In New York City (USA) there’ll be a free 2018 Girls Speak Out event at the United Nations Headquarters for all girls aged 13 and over. Find other events in the USA here.
Expanding learning opportunities for girls
This year’s theme of International Girl Day is ‘With Her: A Skilled GirlForce’. Therefore, the focus will be on expanding learning opportunities for girls. Education is extremely important, but in many countries, girls miss out on school because of menstruation. The situation is especially bad in rural villages in western Nepal that still practise the forbidden chaupadi tradition: there, girls aren’t even allowed to visit school when they’re on their period.
In most cases, taboos, prejudices and not being able to afford sanitary protection lead to disadvantages for female pupils. For example in Uganda, which has one of the highest school dropout rates in East Africa with research indicating 28% of the adolescent girls miss a minimum of four school days per cycle and many end up leaving school altogether. In Kenya, girls miss an average of 4.9 days of school each month due to their period – adding up to 20 per cent of the school year.
Missing out on education because of period poverty doesn’t only happen in developing countries. It also exists in the western world. Many girls of lower income families in the UK and USA don’t have enough money to buy tampons or pads. Because they’re afraid of leakage stains and don’t want their teachers or classmates to know they’re menstruating, they end up skipping classes.
Education: also about menstruation
Education is of utmost importance when it comes to empowering girls. But from a menstrual point of view, it isn’t just about expanding learning opportunities for girls, or providing them with free pads and tampons so they keep going to school. It also involves teaching about menstruation in a playful and fun way, like these games do. In western countries though, menstrual education is often sponsored by tampon companies who give out free samples to boost brand loyalty.
The potential problem here: these education resources don’t mention cheaper, and more environmentally responsible, reusable menstrual products, such as cloth pads or menstrual cups. Last but not least: let’s not forget an essential part in menstrual education: teaching boys about periods. Because involving both sexes in menstrual education and showing them the monthly bleeding isn’t something to be embarrassed or ashamed of, will certainly improve the learning opportunities of girls, especially in developing countries.
MH Day 2018: #beyondshame
Volunteering to fight period poverty in the UK
MH Day 2018: No More Limits
Break the barriers – Period Poverty Summit in the UK
#MenstruationMatters: not just on MH Day