Written by Charlotte Bryan – Volunteer at ACAA
International Day of the Girl Child, held annually on 11th October, is an international observance day declared by the United Nations, which aims to empower girls, before, during, and after crises.
There are nearly 600 million girls aged 10-19 in the world today, representing a wealth of innovation, creativity and power. However, much of this potential is haemorrhaged and lost, as adolescent girls are uniquely impacted by inequalities in secondary school provision, and by cultural issues such as child marriage, or discrimination. An annual recognition of the potential of girls worldwide ensures that conversation about the development of services, and narrowing of the inequality gap continues.
Supported by UNICEF and Plan International, the goal of this day dedicated to girls, is to raise awareness of issues facing girls and young women internationally, such as: education, child marriage, protection against violence, discrimination and legal and medical rights.
Supporting the rights of women and girls is a key aim for ACAA, who run programmes which focus particularly on empowering female refugees. Their supplementary school supports children with school subjects to encourage academic achievement when language barriers are an obstacle. Quality education is key to providing all girls and boys with the tools to achieve future ambitions. Another important service run by the ACAA is the Women’s Tea Corner. The group provides a safe space for women to develop their skills in a friendly environment. The women learn English as well as sharing their own knowledge and experiences.
In keeping with International Day of Girl Child’s aim to empower and inspire girls all over the world, it seems appropriate to include a note about positive role models. From a wide selection of empowering stories from the region, highlighted are three Afghan women, whom are remarkable examples of modern role models for girls and women.
Khalida Popal is the ex-captain of the Afghan women’s football team. Fearing for her own safety, she fled Afghanistan in 2011, after a long journey arriving in an asylum centre in Denmark. Here, she continued to inspire other women to play sport, and set up her own initiative – ‘Girl Power’ – which finds volunteer instructors to work with refugees to build bridges between them and local residents.
Sonia Alizadeh is an Afghan rapper and activist, who released a powerful music video against forced marriage. She grew up in Afghanistan, but fled to Iran with her family at the age of 10. She taught herself to read and write whilst working as a cleaner, and made the acquaintance of Iranian filmmaker, Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami, who eventually helped her to escape forced marriage and obtain a full scholarship to high school in the US. She is the subject of documentary, Sonita.
Shaista Waiz is the first female certified pilot from Afghanistan, and has recently become the youngest female pilot to fly solo around the world. Shaista was born in a refugee camp in Afghanistan, just before her family fled to America. On her trip around the globe this year, she stopped at 33 locations, with a mission to encourage more women to pursue science, technology, engineering and mathematics degrees. She also returned to Afghanistan, to speak to young girls and encourage them to not give up on their dreams.
Join us in celebrating this day, by continuing to support women and girls in their development.