Many governments still do not see the need to allocate or increase resources for efforts that would strengthen health systems to reduce maternal mortality, address violence against women, ensure access to sexual and reproductive health care, and end child marriage. In fact, these areas should be priorities if we are to achieve sustainable development for generations to come.
The world must take action where governments and communities have failed our girls. They deserve to live and not to die in childbirth. They deserve to thrive and live healthy lives. Above all, we must protect these girls so that they live a life free of violence, abuse and stigma and can raise healthy children.
Malawi outlawed child marriage last week. Following more than five years of undaunted advocacy by Malawian girls, their allies and civil society leaders, the country's Parliament tabled and passed the "Marriage, Divorce, and Family Relations Bill," increasing the legal age of marriage from 15 to 18 years.
Perhaps we should also ask a simple question about the rights of a woman in any given society: can she determine when she has children, and how many of them she will have? If she cannot, then what use are her supposed positions of honor or status? But come to think of it, shouldn't that right extend to women in the so-called developed first world, too?
Only time will tell if the UN Refugee Agency's critical efforts will have the potency and persuasion to effect systemic change among these communities, but during these 16 Days of Activism we're thankful for every effort that combats this violence perpetuated against the world's most innocent and vulnerable populations.
Today, on International Volunteer Day, we celebrate the contributions of volunteers all over the world to improving our communities, whether those efforts are focused locally, nationally, or globally. 62 million Americans volunteered last year, that's close to 25 percent of the population over the age of 12!