Anyone who is equally as obsessed as I am with the 1998 remake of “The Parent Trap,” starring young Lindsay Lohan, would recognize the importance of the day, October 11th. Not familiar with the film? Essentially, two identical looking girls meet at summer camp only to discover that they are sisters. The main clue that leads them to realize they are twins is their shared birthdate, October 11th. My camp friends and I have an annual tradition to rewatch the movie on this day, reciting the lines verbatim.
This year, however, October 11th holds a totally different and new meaning. In 2011, the United Nations declared this day to be recognized as International Day of the Girl Child, a worldwide observance to promote equal opportunity for girls everywhere, increase access to education, health, and legal rights, and eradicate discrimination, violence, and child marriage.
International Day of the Girl is about recognizing the work that still needs to be done to help women and girls globally. Almost exactly a year ago, Pakistani 15 year-old and activist for girls’ education, Malala Yousufzai, was shot in the head by the Taliban on her bus ride home from school. Where Malala lives, the Taliban has been known to ban girls from attending school.
Malala and her Pakistani sisters are not the only girls around the world who are made to fear going to school or have to fight for their right to an education. According to a 2012 United Nations report, 66 million girls around the world are currently not in school. This means that millions of passionate, brilliant, and eager girls all around the world are barred spots at classroom desks simply because they were born girls.
But International Day of the Girl is also about recognizing the progress that has been made so far. This past summer on her 16th birthday, Malala addressed hundreds of people at the United Nations about her undying commitment to universal education. With a clear and unwavering voice, Malala said,
“So here I stand, here I stand, one girl among many. I speak not for myself, but so those without a voice can be heard. Let us pick our books and our pens, they are our most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one book, and one pen can change the world. Education is the only solution. Education first.”
International Day of the Girl is about standing up and speaking for those girls around the world who continue to be silenced or who have not yet found their voice. This day reminds us that education remains the solution to empowering women everywhere and to ultimately changing the world.
So on this year’s October 11th, I will not rewatch ‘The Parent Trap’ for more than the hundredth time. No, this year, I will watch a different film, ‘Girl Rising,’ that tells the stories of nine courageous young women around the world, who despite child slavery and arranged marriages, fought for their right to an education. What a fitting and inspiring way to celebrate girls worldwide and to look towards a future where girls no longer have to fear going to school, a world where education comes first.
Want to celebrate International Day of the Girl? Find a ‘Girl Rising’ screening near you!