Last night I attended Plan International’s dinner to benefit Because I Am a Girl. The initiative works to give girls access to their most basic human rights: clean water, food, healthcare, education, financial security, and protection from violence and exploitation.
At dinner, I had a chance to meet the courageous and talented Gifty, an 18 year old from the Upper Manya Krobo District of Ghana. She is the only daughter in her family and has worked tremendously hard to stay in school, despite her many responsibilities at home and the logistical difficulties of attending the only secondary school in her district.
Gifty became an active leader in her school’s Plan Club, meeting regularly to discuss her community’s child rights issues, such as child labor, neglect, school dropout, and sex trafficking. Gifty is in her last year of secondary school. She hopes to attend university in Accra and become “the best journalist of her time.”
This is Gifty’s first trip to New York City. She is one of the most self-possessed people I’ve ever met. Before dinner, she spoke to crowds and journalists at the lighting of the Empire State Building. It glowed pink and white to mark today as the first International Day of the Girl.
Here are some facts from Plan’s “Because I am a Girl: State of the World’s Girls 2011”:
- There are 75 million girls out of primary and lower secondary school.
- A girl in Southern Sudan is more likely to die in childbirth than finish primary school.
- As many as 150 million girls under 18 have experienced forced sexual intercourse or sexual violence.
- Girls continue to be raised in households where they are expected to shoulder the burden of household labor alongside their mothers.
- Globally, young women aged 15 to 24 account for 64 per cent of HIV infections among young people.
To mark International Day of the Girl, please consider a donation to Plan. You can sponsor an individual child, fund a particular project such as nutrition education or the construction of a classroom, or donate to initiatives in a country of your choice. Visit PlanUSA for more information.