Today is the International Day of the Girl Child. This day has been initiated from the UN and is a good opportunity to remind ourselves of what it means to be a girl child in today’s world. The UN wants to “address the needs and challenges girls face, while promoting girls’ empowerment and the fulfillment of their human rights”. By celebrating the Day of the Girl Child, we also want to highlight both sides of the reality of being a girl. The theme of this year’s International Day of the Girl Child is “GirlForce: Unscripted and Unstoppable”.
The question of what it is that defines being a girl can not be answered one-dimensionally. The circumstances in which a child grows up in, the social, cultural, political and economic context, plays a huge role in defining what it means to be a girl. This question, therefore, is rather personal. Still, girls are exposed to some of the same dangers in all parts of the world: An EU-wide survey from 2014 has shown that 33% of women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence since they were 15 years old. 22% of women in Germany have or have had a physically or sexually abusive partner. One in 20 women in Europe have been raped since the age of 15. The numbers differ from country to country but all over the world, crimes like these happen every day.
Girls grow up being raised differently from boys. The specifics of these differences again depend on where and how you grow up. Growing up as a girl can bear a lot of expectations, like playing with dolls, aspiring towards marriage from an early age on, being more responsible for housework than our brothers. We learn from what we see, and we often see our moms doing domestic work. We as girls grow up with shame around our sexuality and our body. We are taught to shave right when the first hair starts growing, we are taught that menstruation is dirty and something to be ashamed of, we do not talk about masturbation, even among our friends, because our sexuality is shaded by guilt.
What it means to be a girl is all this: A lot of expectations and pressure around our behaviour, our looks, our attitude, the way we live our life. But being a girl also means breaking these expectations, unlearning internalized values and norms we thought were true for us. And to find to our authentic selves in that process, form a GirlForce and behave as if we were unscripted and unstoppable until it becomes a reality.
United Nations: International Day of the Girl Child https://www.un.org/en/events/girlchild/ [10.10.2019]
EUROPEAN UNION AGENCY FOR FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS (2014): Violence against women: an EU-wide survey https://fra.europa.eu/sites/default/files/fra-2014-vaw-survey-at-a-glance-oct14_en.pdf [10.10.2019]