Co-authored with Ines Renique
Every morning we wake up to the sound of our alarm. We get dressed, grab some breakfast and less than 20 minutes later we are at school. The two of us may live in different states, attend different schools, and be passionate about different things, but there is one common denominator we share: the opportunity to receive an education. It is something that every child in the United States is guaranteed, and it is the key to success. The education we have both received has given us a foundation on which to stand and reach our full potential.
But not all kids are as fortunate -- 143 million children to be exact. There are currently 143 million out-of-school children, more than half of who are girls. It is a staggering number, but one that by working together, we can reduce.
Our generation needs to help the world understand the value of a girl in society and how crucial it is to educate everyone, but especially girls. Educating girls is the key to ending the cycle of extreme poverty, and the ripple effect is clear. When a girl in the developing world receives seven or more years of education, she marries four years later and has 2.2 fewer children (United Nations Population Fund, State of World Population 1990). An extra year of primary school boosts girls' eventual wages by 10 to 20 percent; add to that an extra year of secondary school and her eventual wages are boosted to 25 percent.
This issue is not just grim statistical matter, it is a problem that can be solved. We can and will bring the number of children lacking an education down to zero. Steps have already been taken; global conversations have already been sparked. We know that way forward and all about ensuring girls are counted, receiving an education, staying safe from violence and accessing healthcare. From Malawi to New York, youth, policy makers, NGOs and IGOs are using their prevalence on the global platform to speak out against social injustices. In doing so we are providing a way for girls to speak up and have their words heard around the world. But there is so much work left to do and so many voices needed to reach our goal.
Given our role as Teen Advisors for the UN Foundation's Girl Up campaign, we are working to get other people involved in solving this global issue. This upcoming week is a special week and October 11 is not just a day, but a movement. It is bigger than any one issue, organization, or even country. And that's because last year, The United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution to establish the first annual International Day of the Girl on October 11, 2012. According to the U.N. this annual day will "help galvanize worldwide enthusiasm for goals to better girls' lives, providing an opportunity for them to show leadership and reach their full potential." This movement allows everyone to speak out against gender bias and advocate for girls' rights on a global level.
This day can be the catalyst for people throughout the world to educate their communities on the challenges girls and women face, as well as to commemorate girls and our potential. International Day of the Girl is not just for girls, but it is an opportunity for fathers and brothers alike to participate and learn about different perspectives on gender stereotypes, discrimination, and opportunity.
We invite and encourage you all to celebrate this day whether by taking a few minutes to educate yourself about these issues, hosting an event at your school or making a quick donation. Let's use this day to help create momentum around this movement. It is a day to be grateful for the opportunities we have had living in this country and for all the people in your life that have given you the opportunity and the confidence to follow your dreams and passions. Just like your parents, friends, and teachers have empowered you, we must continue to empower all girls so that they can act on their dreams and have the options that come with receiving an education. Together, we can give them a chance at a better future.
We hope that you think about the 143 million children without education past this day, and that you take a pledge to reduce this number. When 143 million children wake up and are able to go to school, only then will the job be complete. But until that day it is both our responsibility and opportunity to ensure that that they all receive the one thing that will no one will ever be able to take away from them: an education.
We may all be from different countries, speak different languages, and have our own traditions, but we are a part of a global team of problem solvers and equity creators and together we will leave our handprints on the world.
To learn more and find out what you can do this International Day of the Girl, check out www.girlup.org.