Dr. Jennifer W. Shewmaker

Parent, Teacher, Author

It’s International Day of the Girl!


This past week I’ve been sharing my Girl Heroes. Today I share my final hero, my daughter Catherine. She inspires me with her courage. Catherine loves dance, but family circumstances led her to step out of it for three years. Three years when her body was changing and growing. Coming back to dance was not easy, but she’s been committed to growing and learning. She doesn’t let it get her down that she’s behind others. Instead, she continues to dance with passion and courage, knowing that her skills will grow. That inspires me!

Today is the third annualInternational Day of the Girl. A day designed to celebrate the potential of girls and raise awareness about the ways that girls across the world have not achieved equality and are not allowed to reach their potential.

As reported on the US State Department website, Today, 250 million girls live in poverty, one in three girls in the developing world will be married before turning 18, and 62 million girls are out of school–deprived of an education that would lead to positive health and economic outcomes. Worldwide, an estimated 150 million girls have experienced sexual violence, and nearly half of all sexual assaults are committed against girls younger than 16 years of age. In 2013, nearly 80 percent of all new HIV infections among those ages 15 to 24 affected adolescent girls and young women.

The effects of these issues are not just harmful to individual girls, but to their communities and the culture economies of their countries. Today we celebrate the recognition of Malala Yousafzai as the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. But we also acknowledge the huge number of girls who continue to live under systems of oppression and violence.

This year’s theme for the International Day if the Girl is empowering adolescent girls. And efforts through UN Women call for more opportunities to bring the voices of adolescent girls into this conversation at all levels. I encourage each of us to ask what we can do to support the empowerment and development of girls, both individually and as a group. As we give them opportunities to use their voices and grow in their strengths, they will inspire us!

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