International Day of the Girl Child 2022
When women and girls are empowered, everyone wins.
On International Day of the Girl Child (11 October) we want to bring attention to the challenges faced by girls around the world.
In 2022, the United Nations is commemorating the 10th anniversary of the International Day of the Girl. The last decade has seen more opportunities for girls to have their voices heard. Yet, girls living in extreme poverty are continuing to face obstacles that hold them back from reaching their full potential.
No, the girls are not OK
Amanda Rives, interim Response Director of World Vision’s Global Hunger Response, warns that things have become so much worse for millions of girls due to Covid, climate change and conflict.
“'How are the girls doing?' As the mum of three girls, I get this question a lot. Thanks be to God, my girls are doing really well these days. After two+ years of uncertainty, lockdowns, loss of family members, and virtual school, they are now thriving, healthy and vaccinated against Covid, trying new foods and cultures. They are working hard on multiplication and division, and our eldest is starting her first job.
"World Vision’s Global Hunger Response – our largest, most ambitious humanitarian response to date – shows, sadly, I cannot say this is the case for the great majority of girls where World Vision works. The girls are NOT OK.
"Since the pandemic started things have only gotten worse – the economic fallout from the pandemic, entrenched conflict, and climate change, led to a perfect storm for girls in fragile contexts. The war in Ukraine then drove up food, fuel, and fertiliser prices around the world, creating further shock waves and turmoil even in otherwise stable, middle-income countries which are saddled with debt and little fiscal space to react. Girls, and boys, are on the receiving end of merging catastrophes."
Destined for early marriage
Xa is only 14 years old, but for years, she could see her future: early marriage.
Both of her grandmothers married at age 15.
Her mother married at 17.
Xa lives in a village in the north-central region of Vietnam and belongs to the Vân Kiều people. In her culture, women are the breadwinners of the family. She says, “So many girls have dropped out of school to get married, have children, and earn a living at my age.”
She grew up watching her mum support the family by working in the fields – even when she was heavily pregnant. Her dad drinks with other men almost every afternoon.
She explains, “He became very violent and beat up my mother and me. I was so scared that I would fall into the same destiny as my mother: get married at a young age and find myself a drunk and abusive husband.”
Leaving behind dreams
Xa has her own dreams: she wants to go to school and learn. Every day, she walks 10km each way on a dirt road to make it happen.
But one day, Xa’s mum broke her leg and could not walk. Without her mum’s income, Xa was anxious about how the family would pay for food and medical fees.
She asked herself, “Will it be my turn soon to quit school and help the family?”
Xa couldn’t imagine giving up her education.
64 million girls are working instead of learning
We help parents earn a better income and send their girls to school.
"My heart was heavy”
It didn’t really feel like a choice. After having nothing to eat for several days, her dad told her to drop out of school to help the family.
“My heart was heavy,” she says. “But when I reached home and saw my mother curling up in a corner on a wooden shack, pale and unhappy, I could not think of myself anymore.”
Xa dropped out of school and began working in the fields.
“I felt miserable every day,” she says. “I missed being innocent, going to school, doing my homework, working hard for a good grade. I cried with my sister over the phone every time we talked.”
When her older sister got married at the age of 19, Xa felt like she had lost her closest friend. But thankfully, her sister was there for her. She suggested that her little sister should reach out to World Vision Vietnam for help.
Everything changed for Xa
Xa took her sister’s advice. “I still remember the day I talked to World Vision... They listened to me attentively and comforted me.”
A group from World Vision met with Xa’s father.
“Xa is not like other girls who drop out of school to take care of their families. She has dreams, passion, and she loves going to school,” explains Sáng, the Child Sponsorship coordinator.
Though slightly reluctant, Xa’s dad allowed her to go back to school.
On top of that, she found friends to board with during the week, so she didn’t have to walk so far.
“As a sponsored child, I received tremendous support from World Vision Vietnam: my boarding fees and daily essentials were covered,” she says. “Additionally, World Vision Vietnam also supported my family with livelihood means through breeding chickens.”
Deciding her own future
Xa is so happy she gets the chance to learn about decision-making skills and how to protect her rights. By going to school, she feels like she’s breaking away from the old-fashioned customs that limit young girls.
Now her dream is to become a policewoman so she can protect children from harm and help them reach their potential.
“I heard from somewhere that ‘it takes a village to raise a child’, but to me, it is more like ‘it takes a village to protect a girl,’” Xa says. “For me to successfully escape from child marriage and child labour when these realities were already so close, I have so many people to be thankful to.”
At World Vision, we intentionally focus on women and girls in every aspect of our work because when women and girls are empowered, everyone wins. We work with communities to enable women and girls to overcome the unique obstacles and barriers they face.
When you sponsor a girl, you break the cycle - and give her the chance to enjoy opportunities she could once only dream of. Together, we can provide girls with access to healthcare, water, education, protection, so that she, her family and her community can thrive.