“Women have a special capacity to lead us to a more peaceful world with compassion, affection and kindness. And there is no more important time for that than this moment.” [The Dalai Lama]
10.11.12. Today is the very first UN International Day of the Girl Child. The holiday was formed in December 2011 by the United Nations to recognize the multitude of problems and injustices faced by women all around the world. The importance of such a day could not be more pronounced in light of the Taliban’s attack on Malala Yousafzai in Swat Valley, located in the northwest region of Pakistan. Malala is a fourteen-year-old activist who wrote about her life experiences under Taliban rule in a diary via BBC Urdu. She was only eleven years old when she began her diary under a pen name. She strongly valued her education and often worried that the Taliban, who announced a ban on girls’ education, would shut down her school at any moment. In response to this young girl’s criticism and open expression, she was shot in the head two days ago. This brutal act shows us that a teenage girl’s words and voice are more threatening to the Taliban than weapons or war. Miraculously, Malala has survived surgery to extract the bullet, but it has yet to be decided if she will be transported abroad for further medical care.
Discrimination against women is not limited to one ethnicity or one religion; it is and has long been a pandemic. It is heartbreaking the ways in which women still suffer unfathomable injustices in the 21st century. This year’s International Day of the Girl Child’s theme is to end child marriage. In future years, I imagine the day will shed light on the many other problems faced by girls and women — domestic violence, sex trafficking, unequal pay in the workforce, lack of schools, bride burning, dowry, restrictions on reproductive health and choices, female circumcision, war crimes, restrictions on owning land and property, and so on. The task of addressing and correcting all of them is daunting but necessary. International days like today are a step forward in reminding the world of the issues faced by half of its population, and in calling us to make a change for the better.
“To call woman the weaker sex is a libel; it is man’s injustice to woman. If by strength is meant brute strength, then, indeed, is woman less brute than man. If by strength is meant moral power, then woman is immeasurably man’s superior. Has she not greater intuition, is she not more self-sacrificing, has she not greater powers of endurance, has she not greater courage? Without her, man could not be. If nonviolence is the law of our being, the future is with woman. Who can make a more effective appeal to the heart than woman?”[Mahatma Gandhi]