International Day of the Girl: meet the girls who are challenging the status quo

Chloe Halpenny | Oct 11, 2018
Jennifer & Jackline

In our pursuit of a gender-just world, it can sometimes be easy to overlook the experiences of the youngest people affected. Unfortunately, when it comes to girls’ equality, the statistics remain dismal. Globally, an estimated 12 million girls under 18 are married every year. Girls spend 40% more time than boys on household chores. Meanwhile, 15 million girls of primary-school age will never enter a classroom.

The 11th of October marks the International Day of the Girl, a global day of awareness and recognition of the challenges that continue to be faced by millions of girls around the world. In commemoration, we’re sharing the stories of just a few of the girls in our focus countries. Thanks to the work of our partners, their lives have been transformed through education, the challenging of harmful traditional practices, and the changing of norms. Read on to meet Janet, Jackline and Agnes.

Janet, age 13, Uganda

“My mother sent me to my auntie because she had agreed to pay my school fees. When I got there my auntie made me her house help and started looking for men to marry me off. I rejected every man which infuriated her, so she denied me foodeven though I was doing all the house chores.

When I realised that my auntie was not going to Janet speaking to a crowdsend me to school, I approached a neighbour and asked her for some money for transport to travel back to my mother’s. When I got home I explained to my mum why I had returned, but she started abusing me and threw me out of the house.

I went back to my old school and approached the matron of Isis-WICCE’s peace club to explain my situation. She consoled me and enrolled me back into the school, then called my mother and talked to her about the importance of education for girls. If it weren’t for Isis-WICCE, my mother would have married me off, even though I am only 13 and I want to study.”

Jackline, age 15, Kenya 

“My life is good – I’m studying in secondary school and really enjoying it. I like learning English and hope to be lawyer; my dream is to help people and support human rights.

My father makes sure that I am protected and I know my rights as a girl. He is against Jackline laughing into the distanceFGM; he really stands up for what he believes in, even when the times are difficult.

I really fear FGM and what it did to the girls I know. Many lost a lot of blood when they were cut and two girls in our county died. I am lucky that my dad stopped me from having it; I feel relieved and happy. Sometimes, other girls discriminate against me because I haven’t been cut. They say that even when I get married, I won’t be a full woman. I tell them it is none of their business: it’s my life.

When girls have FGM they get married straight away, but now FIDA Kenya is working in our community to prevent it. Things are changing for girls in Kenya.”

Agnes, age 16, Zimbabwe

“I had a friend who started dating an older man. She kept asking me to date his friends and brothers. I refused; I felt I was too young. Eventually I gave in as she was putting a lot of pressure on me, and started dating the friend who was 21. He convinced me to elope with him and my friend said she was going to do the same – they encouraged me. So I left school and my village and eloped. I didn’t tell anyone: I was scared to.Agnes and her grandmother sitting together

I got to his home and his parents accepted me at first, but then panicked as I was too young to marry by law. My grandmother called and asked me to come home, which I knew was the right thing to do. She had got advice from one of Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association’s Community Legal Educators, as I was underage and had left my education.

I feel happy to be back at home – I have another opportunity to go to school. I realise now that I can get married once I have my education. I want to make my grandmother proud of me and do well at school and become a nurse.”

Join the movement for girls' rights

Womankind and our partners are proud to be working to end discrimination and inequality at every age – but we can’t do it without you. Follow us on Twitter or sign up for our monthly newsletter to stay in the loop about our work with girls and women around the world, or read about Dammy and Talia, two girls supporting global girls’ rights from here in the UK.

What does your support mean for girls like Janet, Jackline and Agnes?

If you’re able, consider donating to our work ensuring that the rights of girls and women everywhere are realised.

  • £7 could mean one girl can attend a mobile legal clinic in Kenya through our partner FIDA Kenya
  • £23 could train one paralegal on how to support women and girls who have experienced violence in Uganda through NAWOU

Together, we can achieve a world where no girl is denied her rights simply due to her gender.

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