It’s a well-researched fact: when women and girls have equal footing in society, everyone benefits. We drive economic growth, and champion policies that lift up all of society. And yet, we are about to celebrate the 11th anniversary of International Day of the Girl on Oct. 11 as a reminder that there is so much work left to do.
I remember watching this day come to fruition by the United Nations General Assembly. I lived in Washington, DC working with nonprofits to empower women around the world. I wondered how this would impact my work personally and our work globally.
Fast forward to today In the ‘freest nation in the world,’ girls and women stateside are grappling with the effects of a post-Roe outlook on our healthcare. Just across the pond, our sisters are dealing with inequities all over. It’s hard to see progress if we’re looking closely at current challenges, and its easier to gain perspective with a bird’s eye view of progress around the world. Here are the stories I’m always watching.e world:
Since the Taliban took power in Afghanistan last year, the rights of girls and women have been quickly and systemically stripped at every level of society. Now, Afghanistan is the only country in the world where girls are banned from going to high school. Women are mostly restricted from working outside the home, and have no role in government. When outside of the home, they are required to cover their faces and have a male chaperone when traveling past certain distances. For updates from the UN on ongoing humanitarian work in Afghanistan, read their latest release.
Ranked the second happiest nation in the world, Denmark is known internationally for its egalitarian ethos and low poverty rates across the country. In their government, a parliamentary system, about 40% of the representatives are female. The country’s very first female prime minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, took office in 2011. With guaranteed paid family leave, strong LGBTQIA+ rights, and a recent OECD survey showing that Danish men do more housework than in any other country in the world, it’s easy to see that when girls and women are supported, entire nations can thrive.
Ukraine and Eastern Europe at large
Several months into the Russian invasion of Ukraine, many people, especially women and girls, are fearing for their lives across Eastern Europe. After fleeing early on in the crisis, abandoning male family members old enough to fight, many Ukranian girls and women are trying to make new lives in surrounding countries. For those who didn’t flee, gender-based violence is on the rise across Ukraine, with reports of sexual assault at the hands of Russian soldiers, women forced to trade sex for food and survival, and more human rights violations. For more information on this crisis, read the UN’s September 2022 report on the devastating impacts of the Ukraine war on women and girls.
In 2019, the United Nations Human Development Report ranked Singapore 11th out of 162 countries for gender equality, outranking the US and Canada. With guaranteed paid maternity leave, the right to terminate unwanted pregnancies, and the highest percentage of women in the overall workforce in their region with 44%, Singapore is a beacon of growing equality in the Asia-Pacific region.
Protests have erupted throughout Iran in recent weeks over the unjust murder of a 22 year-old woman who was arrested by the Iranian Morality Police for not fully complying with the country’s laws for women’s headcoverings. After brutal police crackdowns, beatings, and arrests, the country’s internet was cut off by the government. As the world follows this developing story, it’s important to remember that Iran overall has some of the toughest restrictions on free speech, jailing journalists and activists at some of the highest rates in the world. See the Human Rights Watch 2022 report on Iran.
Other key issues impacting girls and women across the world include child marriage, female genital mutiliation, the rights of trans people, and countless others. It can be jarring to see the juxtaposition of how some countries prioritize equality over those that choose to keep women in roles of subjugation.
When we give women access to equal education, comprehensive sexual health resources, and options, communities thrive, economies boom, happiness indexes soar. As you recognize your privileges and intersectionality this International Day of the Girl, consider donating to one of these organizations:
Founded by Malala and Ziauddin Yousafzai in 2013, The Malala Fund champions every girl’s right to 12 years of free, safe, quality education. Together with their board, leadership council, donors, staff, champions and girl activists, Malala Fund is creating a more equal world by making sure all girls can go to school.
For over 50 years, NARAL Pro-Choice America has fought to protect and advance reproductive freedom at the federal and state levels—including access to abortion care, birth control, pregnancy and post-partum care, and paid family leave—for every body.
Equality Now was founded in 1992 to work for the protection and promotion of the human rights of women around the world. Working with national human rights organizations and individual activists, Equality Now documents violence and discrimination against women and mobilizes international action to support their efforts to stop these human rights abuses. Through its Women’s Action Network of concerned groups and individuals around the world, Equality Now distributes information about human rights violations; takes action to protest these violations; and brings public attention to human rights violations against women.