Too many societies around the world place a far lower value on girls than they do boys. As a result, girls face often crippling discrimination: their well-being, even their lives, are considered to be expendable. Too often it is a girl who is the first to drop out of school, the last to be fed, the last to receive medical care. This is not just unfair, it is detrimental to society at every level.
Countries should ensure girls have equal protection under the law, protect them from violence and other abuse, and give them full access to education. Not only is this the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do since it would bring enormous developmental benefits that go beyond improving the lives of the girls themselves.
Once an educated girl becomes an adult, she will earn some 20 percent more for each additional year of education she receives beyond grade three or four. Statistics show she will probably share up to 90 percent of her earnings with her family and her community. She will marry and bear children later, and they will be healthier and more likely to go to school than will the children of women who have not received an education.
Nonetheless, too often, families prioritize girls’ help with household chores over studying, or even attending school. Globally, 35 million girls have never gone to school and only 30 percent of girls are enrolled in secondary school. 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.
To empower girls, and to draw attention to the unique challenges girls face around the world, in 2011, the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 66/170, declaring October 11th as the International Day of the Girl Child. The resolution recognizes that empowerment of and investment in girls, as well as the meaningful participation of girls in decisions that affect them, are key in breaking the cycle of discrimination and violence and in promoting and protecting the full and effective enjoyment of their human rights.
The United States fully supports UN Resolution 66/170. We believe that every girl in the world deserves to have a chance to live up to her dreams and aspirations. Promoting gender equality between girls and boys is not just the right thing to do: it is the smart thing to do.