Development charities have hailed the first International Day of the Girl Child for recognising girls' rights around the world.
In the UK, the Department for International Development said over the last year British aid has supported over 2.5 million girls in primary school and 260,000 girls in secondary school to help them fulfil their potential.
“There are 250 million girls living poverty in the developing world,” DfID said.
“By giving girls greater choice and control over the decisions that affect them, we can help to break the cycle of poverty between one generation and the next.”
Charity, Right To Play said gender inclusiveness is a key focus of its sport and play programmes.
“Gender equality is imbedded in our activities and ethos of the charity; 50% of our participants are girls and 49% of our coaches are female,” a spokesperson said.
“We also run specific programmes in the Middle East providing girls with sport and play opportunities that they wouldn’t otherwise have access to due to the strong traditions held by their communities that discourage sport amongst females. These programmes help girls to develop vital life skills that will help give them the chance to build a brighter future.”
The focus of the first International Day of the Girl is child marriage. Every three seconds a girl in the poorest part of the world is forced to marry against her will.
Educated girls are more likely to marry later, be able to choose when and how many children they have and earn higher incomes.
Graça Machel Co-founder of The Elders with her husband, Nelson Mandela, said in her blog on the DfID website:
“There is still much progress to be made. There is one thing that the goals of universal education, ending violence against women, maternal and child health, economic development and combating HIV/AIDS all have in common: each one of them is directly hindered by child marriage. Girls who marry before they turn 18 are more likely to drop out of school, live in poverty, suffer domestic violence, become pregnant before they are ready, and die in childbirth. Marrying too young is a sure way to perpetuate poverty and inequality in a girl’s community.
“Child marriage is more than a harmful practice that should be tackled in its own right; it is an entry point to all these other issues. If we want girls to stay in school, to be safe and healthy, to earn their own income and invest back into their families and communities, we must end child marriage.”