October 11th of each year has been crowned by the United Nations as the International Day of the Girl. Be forewarned -- it's a gimmick.
It is a ploy by the UN body to grab the world's attention and direct it towards the plight of girls. It's a huge gimmick. A time-tested marketing strategy to make something pop out of all the noise. And guess what? We are in cahoots -- as are all the organizations and individuals working on behalf of the world's girls.
"Girls," especially the education of girls, seems to be what everybody is talking about. If you don't know who Malala is, your head's been deep in sand. Yet, despite the chatter, despite all the buzz, the "need" far exceeds "response." Google the statistics about girls: out of school; forced to marry when still children; dying in childbirth; forced into labor or slavery ... then weigh those stats against: government investments; development aid dollars; the number of dedicated organizations working on the issue. One side of the scale touches the ground.
When I contemplate the motivation behind declaring one day a year dedicated to girls, I think of a young toddler and how they are prone to get attention. My own children did this to me and I've seen others do it to their mothers and fathers. They will place one hand on each side of your face and get their face up close to yours. Gently but firmly. They then turn the parent's head so they are looking each other eye to eye. The toddler, in its own way, is saying, "Look at me." All of us working to create new pathways so millions of girls can transcend their circumstances -- be it through advocacy or on the ground -- we are "the toddler," gently but firmly trying to turn faces, trying to say, "Pay attention." This issue is real. It is deep, it is fierce. Girls are being robbed of their own lives and the suppression of girls keeps our world from being its best self.
What is International Day of the Girl? A gimmick for all the best reasons. Unlike the day 30 days before it, it is a day of hope and possibility. It is a day which calls on all of us to be our best, to be proactive, to be generous. It is a day acknowledging an issue of significant consequence to our society, while also claiming the territory of "we can do something." It is a stake in the ground. Some of us are already next to that stake, holding on tightly, working day in and out to be portals towards change.
Today, on 10/11, we turn to others, who may know the stake is there, yet until now have chosen to stay on the sidelines. We turn to you on this notable day and gently put one hand on each side of your face and firmly turn you towards us and say, "Join us." That's the power of 10/11. Are you ready?