Malala becomes youngest Peace Prize recipient a day before International Day of the Girl Child


In 2012 the U.N.declared October 11th as the International Day of the Girl Child to raise awareness about all issues concerning gender inequality around the world.  More than anything this day  promotes girls' human rights, and highlights gender inequalities that remain between girls and boys. It also addresses the various forms of discrimination and abuse suffered by girls around the world.

“Empowerment of and investment in girls are key in breaking the cycle of discrimination and violence and in promoting and protecting the full and effective enjoyment of their human rights” - United Nations Resolution 66/170

As a mother of three beautiful intelligent daughters, I value this day even more.  When I look around at the world and all the struggles that women still face, it appears we are going backward, not forward.  Statistics are staggering ...14 million girls become child brides every year. 140 million girls a year are affected by sexual violence .

Living in such a free nation as Canada, I feel blessed that my daughters have amazing opportunities here as long as they care to apply themselves.

“Our Government is committed to giving girls a strong foundation to succeed in life by promoting equality, education and good health in a safe, secure environment," said Canada's prime minister, Stephen Harper today in a press statement.

“In too many places around the globe, girls are still denied access to quality education, nutrition and health services, and are more likely to experience physical and sexual violence. Many are forced into marriage at a young age, and face disturbing restrictions on their rights and freedoms – all because they are girls," Harper added.

I couldn't agree more! However things in Canada are not always rosy, and I know my girls have had their challenges, whether in the work arena, school, or within the basic parameters of society.  We've had some close calls in our family, and have heard of sexual abuse, exploitation, and violence incidents that are all too close to home.  Harper went on to outline what Canada is doing towards these causes.

“In Canada, we are promoting the rights of girls in a number of ways, including initiatives that deter violence, sexual exploitation and cyber-crimes such as the Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act (Bill C-13), the modernization of Canada’s Criminal Code, our Stop Hating Online campaign, the RCMP Centre for Youth Crime Prevention, and our support for the Canadian Centre for Child Protection's and websites."

Yesterday, the Nobel Peace Prize was given to two people, one of whom is a 17 year old girl, the youngest ever... Yes, a GIRL!  Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani child education activist who was shot in the head by the Taliban put aside the word / notion 'victim' and went on do great things.  She is considered the most famous teenager in the world and I feel could be the poster girl for this year's International Day of the Girl Child.

Harper said, “Yesterday, I was very pleased to congratulate Malala Yousafzai who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her work on children’s rights. Malala is the youngest ever recipient of the Peace Prize, and I look forward to her visit later this month.” Yousafzai will be made an Honourary Canadian Citizen in Ottawa on October 22nd, 2014 being the 6th person only to carry this honour.  She joins the ranks of  Raoul Wallenberg, Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama, Aung San Suu Kyi and the Aga Khan.

I am extremely pleased with this decision, and what a beacon of light she is not only to Canadian and Pakistani girls, but the entire planet!

The second Peace Prize winner yesterday was Kailash Satyarthi, an Indian child rights campaigner, and another person helping with the plight of girls.

This year's International Day of the Girl Child's theme is: "Empowering Adolescent Girls: Ending the Cycle of Violence."  Adolescents is the key time when girls are most abused. "Every ten minutes an adolescent dies in the world due to violence," said UNICEF.

I know for myself  (and I can likely speak for my daughters), adolescence was the most challenging time, as we struggle to mature and find acceptance within ourselves and our peers.  My youngest child just turned eighteen and she has graduated high school. That's a huge relief, but it shouldn't feel that way.

I look to a future where my granddaughters do not have to go through the atrocities that  girls and women before them had to. Awareness is key. Speaking out is critical.

“On this International Day of the Girl Child, let us remember one fundamental tenet: Girls and women, everywhere, deserve equal opportunities to succeed and thrive,"  said Harper.  This is our fundamental right!

I believe in a better world...

UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign (Photo by Oli Scarffoli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images)