International Day of the Girl is celebrated on October 11 to recognize girls’ rights and the unique, pressing challenges girls face around the world. At Girls Inc., we believe girls have the right to be safe, respected, and valued. They have the right to access education, pursue meaningful careers, and excel as leaders in their schools and communities. Yet, every day, in communities across the U.S., girls encounter significant obstacles to their well-being and success.
While many Americans may perceive access to education as a challenge outside the United States, a host of barriers exist for girls living right here in the U.S., including exclusionary discipline practices, discrimination against those who are pregnant or parenting, and under-resourced schools. Additionally, and perhaps not talked about as much, is the threat of sexual harassment and violence that youth, particularly girls, face in their pursuit of an education.
One in four girls experiences sexual abuse or assault before she turns 18, and seven out of ten girls report experiencing sexual harassment while in high school. Young women who experience sexual violence are at high risk for depression and anxiety, alcohol and drug use, and other coping behaviors – leading to problems in school and increased risk of dropout. What’s more, we know that girls who come forward to report sexual harassment or assault are all too often blamed, disbelieved, and even disciplined.
This is unacceptable.
Laws like Title IX serve to protect students from sex discrimination in schools. However, many schools lack the resources to provide those tasked with overseeing the school’s compliance with the law – called Title IX Coordinators – the support and training they need to do their jobs effectively.
The Gender Equity in Education Act (GEEA), introduced this year by Senator Mazie Hirono (HI) and Rep. Doris Matsui (CA), would provide grants to help schools, colleges, states, and school districts address sex discrimination, which includes sexual harassment and violence. We at Girls Inc. urge Congress to make GEEA a reality, to ensure schools are safe and that students can thrive.
Last October, Girls Inc. launched the #GirlsToo campaign, motivated by the experiences of girls in our network. Our goal is to bring attention to the problem of sexual harassment and violence that girls face, with actions aimed at creating policies and practices that build a safer, more equitable society. There is strength in numbers and we believe that together we can build a culture where girls and all young people grow up safe, respected, and valued.
As we celebrate International Day of the Girl, let us all do what we can to ensure very girl can reach her fullest potential. Let’s support, uplift, and ensure equal opportunity so that every girl can grow up strong, smart, and bold.
Please join us and stand with girls by contacting your member of Congress and asking him or her to support the Gender Equity in Education Act.
Then, be part of the movement to create a culture where all girls and young people grow up safe, respected, and valued. Take the pledge to end sexual harassment and violence among young people and build a safer, more equitable society.