Every minute, 22 girls under 18 are married, or one in 10 are forced into sexual activities. These are the kind of sobering statistics that World Vision is trying to create awareness around in their ‘1000 Voices for 1000 Girls’ campaign for The International Day of the Girl.
Marked on October 11 each year, the day, also known as The International Day of the Girl Child, is a global observance dedicated to raising awareness about the challenges and human rights violations girls face worldwide, and promoting their empowerment.
Since its inception in 2011, the International Day of the Girl has gained momentum and continues to be a catalyst for discussions and actions aimed at improving the lives of girls worldwide and advancing gender equality – and 2023 is no different.
World Vision Australia has enlisted several ambassadors this year – including Melissa Doyle, Michelle Payne, Samantha Harris, Sunday Aryang, Pallavi Sharda, and Liz Ellis – to highlight the growing global issue of violence against girls; the Breaking the Chain report from the not-for-profit reveals child marriage rates have sadly more than doubled since the COVID-19 pandemic.
“When we learn about statistics like these, it’s hard to walk away from and not do something. I can help by sharing the stories of vulnerable young women and ensure that more of us know what is happening and what we can do about it,” Melissa says.
The former Sunrise host also explained how Australians can get involved: “Just by sponsoring one girl we can change not only her life, but other girls in her community, so imagine what we can do with 1000 sponsored.
The International Day of the Girl also aims to emphasise the importance of investing in girls’ education, health, and well-being to ensure they can reach their full potential and contribute positively to their communities and the world.
“It’s about giving girls opportunities and most importantly knowledge… that they don’t have to be forced into marriage or prostitution, they can stay in school – and there are agencies such as World Vision that will support and assist them.”
The shocking statistics that reflect the grim reality for many girls in underdeveloped countries were also the reason Sunday became an ambassador.
“Twelve million girls marry before the age of 18 every year. That’s 22 girls every minute! And child marriage more than doubled during the COVID-19 pandemic and is tragically expected to increase further as a result of the cost-of-living crisis,” Sunday told us.
“There’s never been a more important time to raise our voices and share the stories of vulnerable girls in need. That is exactly what World Vision’s new 1000 Voices for 1000 Girls is designed to do, and I am incredibly proud to be a part of it.”
For Michelle, she got involved in the hopes that World Vision’s movement would help more girls not just overcome adversity, but also shoot for the stars.
“Growing up my dad always said that the girls are as good as the boys we just needed the opportunity to prove it. Because of that I was able to follow my dreams and I want young girls around the world to have the same opportunity, to have dreams, aspirations, and the opportunity to achieve them.
“To be able to use my voice to shed light on these girls’ stories is something I felt really passionate about… World Vision has specific programs that protect girls from violence and exploitation and instead, provide them with the education and safety they deserve.”
The International Day of the Girl serves as a platform to advocate for gender equality and to address the unique issues that girls often encounter, such as discrimination, violence, limited access to education, and unequal opportunities. And while it is important to have a day earmarked to amplify this message, the work does not stop here, it is an ongoing battle – and we can all play a role in helping to shift this narrative.