Share This Page

It’s Time to Invest in Girls and End the Cycle of Violence

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

When these girls graduate from high school they will have more professional and personal choices.

It’s been two years since the United Nations declared October 11 the International Day of the Girl in response to the problem of neglect and devaluation of girls around the world. By doing so, the world body hoped to galvanize global attention about the importance of improving the lives of girls.

It is ironic that this year’s theme for the day is “Empowering adolescent girls: Ending the cycle of violence.” In 2014 we have witnessed astounding acts of violence against girls, including the kidnapping of almost 300 school girls in Nigeria in April by Boko Haram and the ongoing abduction of girls as young as twelve to be sold as sex slaves or given as prizes to fighters by the Islamic group known as ISIS. Violence against girls doesn’t appear to be going away.

Surprising? Not really. In many parts of the world, including Africa, girls are devalued from birth. Most families prefer boys, who often receive more food, are responsible for fewer chores, and are more likely to be enrolled in school than their sisters. At adolescence girls are subject to the dangers of female genital cutting and early marriage, practices that can lead to severe health problems and even death. A recent UN report found that in West and Central Africa 41 percent of women were married before they reached the age of 18. Adolescent girls have the burden of fetching the family water and fuel wood for fires, often found great distances from their homes, and often take care of younger siblings.

What’s to be done?

Changing societal attitudes is neither quick nor easy. But it can happen. When tradition dictates that a young Kenyan girl should be married off to an older man in exchange for a few cows, her father needs to understand that he can make a better investment—he can invest in her education. His daughter can earn the price of her dowry and continue to earn money for the family long after the cows have died. Maasai Girls Education Fund, an Aid for Africa member, is doing that—investing in Maasai girls by supporting them in school and creating new understanding through example.

Aid for Africa and many of its member organizations identify education as the key to empowering girls. By enrolling and staying in school, a girl has the best chance to reach her potential, overcome violence and attain her rights. Completing primary school is the first step. Completing secondary school is even more important. Girls who finish high school have more choices—economically, through work opportunities, and personally, because they are better able to make their own marriage decisions. These girls tend to marry later and have smaller, healthier families.

On International Day of the Girl 2014, let’s commit to empowering girls and ending the cycle of violence through education. It’s an investment in the future that will have a big payoff for girls, the women they become and the daughters they have.

Want to know more about educating girls? Visit Aid for Africa Girls Education. Want to learn which Aid for Africa charity organizations are supporting African girls in school? Visit here.