Today is the UN's International Day of the Girl Child - a day to celebrate and support female children the world over, encouraging education, equal rights and freedom of speech for every girl.
This year's theme is "With Her: A Skilled Workforce", and deals with the challenges and obstacles girls face when entering the workforce. Roughly one-quarter of young people on earth are unemployed and not in education or training; most of them are female.
UNICEF, which is the UN's international children's fund, has issued their annual statement on what today means for female children everywhere, and their aims to help girls reach their full potential in education and in the workforce. It reports that 600 million adolescent girls will enter the workforce in the next 10 years, but more than 90 per cent of those living in developing nations will work in unregulated or unprotected jobs with low or no pay, abuse and exploitation. Girls with disabilities or living in rural areas will be even more disadvantaged.
UNICEF cites the fact that schools are not focusing on "21st century skills" (including STEM subjects) as a priority for girls, which puts them at a disadvantage to work in these areas in future. "Girls’ full participation in the future workforce requires tackling gender stereotypes across professions and addressing the many systemic barriers to decent work they face," they say.
Today's International Day of the Girl marks the beginning of a year-long project to advocate and invest in girls' "needs and opportunities to attain skills for employability", according to the UN. They have laid out a collection of key advisory points to global communities to invest in girls' futures:
- Rapidly expand access to inclusive education and training.
- Improve the quality and gender-responsiveness of teaching and learning to enable girls to develop foundational, transferable and job-specific skills for life and work.
- Create inclusive and accessible schools, training and learning opportunities to empower girls with disabilities.
- Change gender stereotypes, social norms and unconscious bias to provide girls with the same learning and career opportunities as boys.
- Increase girls’ participation in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) learning.
- Create initiatives to support girls’ school-to-work transition, such as career guidance, apprenticeships, internships and entrepreneurship.
- Deliver large-scale public and private sector programming for girls’ skills and market-adapted training.
- Enable access to finance and enterprise development for female entrepreneurs.
- Form strategic partnerships with governments and private companies which can act as thought leaders and financiers, helping to train girls and bring them into the workforce.
Happy International Day of the Girl!