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Action Alert

Day of the Girl

In December 2011 the U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution to establish October 11 as the "International Day of the Girl Child." United Methodist Women encourages members to participate in the inaugural Day of the Girl this October 11 to help better the lives of girls around the world.

I Am a Girl

Being a girl is tough. Many issues affect girls around the world, so policies that support their growth and development requires ongoing vigilance. The Day of the Girl, on October 11, 2012, “is about highlighting, celebrating, discussing, and advancing girls lives and opportunities across the globe.”


In the United States, 25 percent of girls will not finish high school. Fifty percent of Native American girls, 40 percent of black girls and 37 percent of Hispanic girls will not graduate. The employment rate for girls who drop out is only 53 percent, and if they find a job, they will make an average income of only $15,520, which is below the federal poverty line. In comparison, 77 percent of male high school dropouts are employed and make an average of $24,698.

Girls in both developing and developed countries do not receive the same levels of education as their male peers. In areas of conflict, 20 million girls are not enrolled in school, and those who are make up only 30 percent of the enrolled secondary school students. In sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, for every 10 boys who go to school, there are 7 or fewer girls. In many African countries, girls are almost 5 percent less likely than boys to finish their primary school education, with an even higher percentage that will not finish secondary school. As a result, 64 percent of the world’s illiterate adults are women.

This occurs for many reasons. Male children’s education is often more highly valued, and secondary schools are often farther from home than primary schools, threatening girls’ safety. Girls are also sometimes forced to marry before they are able to finish school.

Women’s equality in the job market also affect girls’ enrollment in school. If women are discriminated against and unable to find jobs, there is less incentive for girls to go to school. This discrimination does not just hurt girls but all children—research shows that children’s nutrition, health and education are better when women are more involved with the household resources.


In the United States, 30.4 percent of girls are overweight, and 15 percent are obese. Being overweight as a child can lead to early-onset puberty, which causes not only an increased risk for depression and cancer but has psychological downsides, as girls can often experience unwanted advances by older men. Other side effects from childhood obesity include diabetes, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol levels, asthma, low self-esteem and negative body image.

Globally, more youth are turning to alcohol, tobacco and drugs. According to the World Health Organization, 14 percent of girls and 18 percent of boys ages 13-15 in low- to middle-income countries report using alcohol. Adolescents in all countries experiment with tobacco products, but while the rate of use has plateaued or is on the decline in the United States and other developed countries, in developing countries, tobacco use among youth is increasing. In Latin America, for example, 25 percent of girls between 13-15 years old admitted to using tobacco within the past month.

Furthermore, it is estimated that 149-272 million adolescents have used illegal drugs in the past year. Alcohol, tobacco and drug use by children increases the likelihood of lifetime addiction, depression, poor school performance and legal troubles.

Illegal drugs can also lead to higher instances of HIV. About 1.3 million adolescent girls have HIV compared to 870,000 adolescent boys, getting the disease from tainted drug needles, unprotected sex and perinatal transmission. The gender discrepancy is most likely from girls having older partners who are more likely to have had previous sexual relations.

Across the world, 11 percent of births are to girls aged 15-19, an age group for which pregnancy is the leading cause of death. Just 53 percent of adolescent girls receive professional assistance during childbirth, and 50,000 10- to 19-year-olds die every year due to pregnancy and birth complications. Teen mothers also face substantial socioeconomic implications. Most girls who have a child don’t complete school, which limits economic opportunities for both the girl and her child in the future.


Violence against girls is prevalent worldwide. High numbers of girls 13-15 years old have reported being physically attacked. Ghana and Egypt top the list of violent countries, with 61 and 56 percent of girls admitting being attacked, respectively. In the United States, every 9 seconds a teenage girl is battered by someone she is in a relationship with, and young women ages 16-24 experience the highest rate of relationship violence.

Girls ages 16-19 in the United States are 4 times more likely to be victims of sexual assault than the rest of the population, and 1 in 4 girls will be sexually assaulted by the time they are 18 years old. 17.6 percent of women surveyed said they had been the victim of a completed or attempted rape at some time in their life. Out of those women, half were younger than 18 years old, 21.6 percent were younger than 12 years old and 32.4 percent were ages 12-17.

Violence against girls is also perpetuated in the form of trafficking. Between 700,000 and 2 million people are trafficked throughout the world. Fifty percent of the victims are children, and 80 percent are women and girls. Of those women and girls, 70 percent will end up in the sex industry and 30 percent into forced labor.

Forced Marriage

Every day, 25,000 girls will be forced to marry before they are physically and psychologically ready. Some families offer daughters for marriage to save her and the rest of the family from starvation, while other daughters are simply used to settle arguments and to pay off debts. The younger a bride is, the higher the price her family can ask. It is estimated that in the developing world 1 in 5 women are married before they are 15 years old. In parts of Ethiopia, the percentage is 50 percent. The number of boys married at that age is less than 5 percent.

Sexual Harassment and Body Image

A common form of sexual abuse is nonviolent harassment. Eighty percent of students report experiencing a form of harassment during their school career, with research showing that some girls don’t recognize harassment due to its prevalence in their environment. The harassment included being grabbed or touched, being the object of a sexual joke, or receiving sexual comments, gestures or looks, among other forms.

The media participates in creating attitudes tolerant of abuse. Seventy percent of individual artists’ songs contain degrading sexual comments, and 44-81 percent of music videos contain sexual imagery. Seventy-five percent of prime time television beer ads and 50 percent of non-beer ads objectify women. Furthermore, magazines preach that making oneself better looking to attract men should be a central goal in a girl’s life, and 40 percent of ads in Time and Vogue magazines from 1955-2002 objectified women.

This type of abuse can lead to depression, anxiety and reduced physical health. Studies show that the more a girl objectifies her body, the worse she performs cognitively and physically as she becomes insecure with her body and suffers from low self-esteem.


Bullying can also play a significant role in body shame and low self-esteem. As many as half of all children are bullied before they graduate, and 10 percent are bullied often. More than 1 in 3 children have been threatened online, 1 in 4 via cell phone, and 1 in 10 have had embarrassing pictures taken without permission. One hundred and sixty thousand students stay home from school every year just to avoid bullying.

Victims of bullying are 2-9 times more likely to consider suicide than their nonbullied peers, and at least half of adolescent suicides are related to bullying. Suicide is the third highest cause of adolescent death and claims approximately 4,400 lives each year. Moreover, for each of these successful suicides, there are 100 more that were attempted but unsuccessful.

A Lack of Women Role Models

Despite efforts to increase the amount of management level positions held by women globally, just 25 percent of senior level positions are held by women. In Northern Africa and Western and Southern Asia this number drops to just 10 percent. The lack of strong, successful female role models for young women to look up to in the majority of the world creates a feeling that there is a glass ceiling that just can’t be broken.

In the United States, the women who are often glamorized and held to be role models for young women are singers, models and actresses. The emphasis on physical beauty as a key to success is prevalent. After Gabriel Douglas won a gold medal in both the all-around and individual competition in the 2012 London Olympics, news media focused more on her hair than the hard work and dedication that she put in to become a world class Olympian.

Because of an international effort to reach gender equality, there has been an increase in women slowly rising to political power. The United States lags behind other countries in regard to female representation in politics; women account for only 17 percent of the Senate and 20 percent of the House of Representatives. Throughout the world, women hold less than 20 percent of parliamentary positions.


Celebrate the Day of the Girl
Get the free Day of the Girl Proclamation Project Toolkit from the Day of the Girl campaign and draft a proclamation and collaborate with your local elected officials to plan a presentation during a city or county council meeting or at a Day of the Girl community event. Nearly 50 proclamations are already in the pipeline. Help get your city and your friends involved by urging your group of friends or organization you belong to to write a proclamation that expresses your concerns and aspirations.  Let everyone know what you have done by registering at www.DayoftheGirl.org/register.

Join the events no matter where you are by joining the virtual summit that is planned to begin October 11, 2012, at 7 p.m. EST. The summit will broadcast Day of the Girl events from around the United States. Leading up to October 11, this site has a series of interactive activities and challenges along with an Express Yourself Contest and the Girls Hall of Fame.

Connect With Organizations That Support Girls
The Girl Scouts Public Policy and Advocacy Office encourages healthy living through combating relational aggression and promoting girl-positive media images; ensures girls feel emotionally and physically safe; promotes girls involvement in science, technology, engineering; and math (STEM); develops financial literacy skills; and gives a voice to girls in underserved communities.

Girls Inc. inspires all girls to be strong, smart and bold through life-changing programs and experiences that help girls navigate gender, economic and social barriers. Research-based curricula, delivered by trained, mentoring professionals in a positive all-girl environment equip girls to achieve academically, lead healthy and physically active lives, manage money, navigate media messages and discover an interest in science, technology, engineering and math.

Girls for a Change empowers girls for personal and social transformation. The program inspires girls to have the voice, ability and problem-solving capacity to speak up, be decision makers, create visionary change and realize their full potential.

Legislative Action
Write to your congressional representatives to urge support for the following legislation:

  • H.R. 1648: Safe Schools Improvement Act of 2011: This act requires states and secretaries of education to collect and report information about bullying in elementary and secondary schools and help schools prevent bullying.
  • H.R. 998: Student Non-Discrimination Act of 2011: This act prohibits public school students from being excluded from participating in or subject to discrimination under any federally assisted educational program on the basis of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity or that of their associates.
  • H.R. 2513: Healthy Media for Youth Act: This act directs the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Resources to provide grants to support programs that (1) increase the media literacy of girls and boys and (2) support the empowerment of girls or boys, including through extracurricular activities and programs.
  • Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (VAWA): Since its original passage in 1994, VAWA has dramatically enhanced our nation’s response to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. This vital legislation must be reauthorized, and the Senate has passed an inclusive bill that protects all victims. In the House of Representatives, Republican leaders forced passage of a bill that weakens many provisions included in VAWA by both Republicans and Democrats over the past 18 years. Act to support reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. Call your congressional representative and tell them to stop blocking VAWA.
Last Updated: 04/08/2014

© 2014 United Methodist Women