Several weeks ago I received the joyous news that a new baby girl will join my sister’s family this Spring. When my six-year-old niece was born I had the privilege of helping my sister through labor and experienced the miracle of birth. Watching new life come into the world is one of the most amazing experiences. I am overjoyed with the news of another niece on the way and will have the same incredible opportunity.
As I think about my beautiful niece, my nephew and the impending arrival of another sweet girl I think of all of the possibilities ahead of them. Sports activities, extra-curricular classes, school dances, college, job opportunities and having a family are life events they will experience. My niece, a very bright and outspoken six-year-old loves to read, play soccer and knows she can talk to her parents about anything.
One of the greatest things about being an aunt is the opportunity to experience and talk with them about the exciting moments in their lives. As my two nieces grow up together, the reality is they will be free to complete their education, go to college and choose if and when to get married and have children. Recently, my niece asked me, “Tia, when do you think I will get married and have children?” My response was simple:
You can choose.
As I think about their lives, I can not help but think of the reality facing most adolescent girls around the world. Instead of finishing their education, one in three girls in low to middle income countries will be married before they turn eighteen years old. Many of these girls are not much older than my niece when they are given away as child brides. Sixteen million adolescent girls give birth every year, many of them and their babies will not survive. Girls face threats of sexual assault daily, while walking to and from school, on public transportation, or while going to the bathroom. Every day, girls as young as five are forced to undergo a practice called Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). FGM, the partial or total removal of a young girl’s genitals for non-medical reasons, harms her body and leaves lasting physical and emotional effects. Choice is simply not an option.
Girls are the future.
Like my nieces, girls around the world hold amazing potential. I have had the privilege to meet so many of them. They are organizational leaders, teachers, doctors, entrepreneurs, leaders, activists and decision-makers. We must protect them. Over the next 18 months, global leaders are creating a development agenda for the next fifteen years. Adolescent girls need to be at the heart of this agenda. In the post-2015 agenda, we must strengthen policies and systems that provide protection for adolescent girls from violence and harmful practices. As I wrote in a recent Huffington Post article, girls’ voices are valuable and need to be heard. I want to see their potential realized and strengthened.
As the post-2015 framework develops, #ShowYourSelfie is a visual petition and a powerful way to empower young people to be seen and heard by global leaders. Through this campaign, as a young person, I declare that all girls should be able to live free from violence. Let’s continue to work together and fight for their rights in the post-2015 agenda.
Want to take action?
Participate in the #ShowYourSelfie campaign and be the change for girls!
September 21st-26th Girls’ Globe will be in New York for the 2014 UN General Assembly. We are partnering with Johnson & Johnson, FHI360 and Women Deliver in support of the UN Foundation’s Every Woman Every Child to amplify the global conversation on the Millennium Development Goals and the post-2015 agenda. Follow #MDG456Live, raise your voice and join the conversation to advance women and children’s health. Sign up for the Daily Delivery and to read engaging blog posts, watch interviews and more.