International Day of the Girl Child

Remarks by Lakshmi Puri, UN Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director of UN Women, at the annual Girls Speak Out event in celebration of the International Day of the Girl 2017

Date: Thursday, October 12, 2017

Your Excellency, Minister Maryam Monsef, Excellencies, ambassadors of Peru and Turkey, Distinguished Colleagues, Girl activists and advocates, ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon.

Let me start by commending the Governments of Canada, Peru, and Turkey for continued commitments to the International Day of the Girl. Sincere thanks to the Working Group on Girls and all the other co-organizers of this thought provoking event of today.

I am so inspired by these amazing girls as they use their voice and talents to speak out against injustices they and their peers face. You young ladies are the stars of the show today and your stories are truly inspiring. You have demonstrated the immense power that lies within girls to be the drivers of change in the world.

As I listen to your stories, I think about my granddaughter who has all the opportunities and how it is critical to encourage and empower her to also find her voice. But I also think about the millions of girls around the world do not have a voice, do not have choices, do not have security and those who are facing or have already faced and survived systematic gender-based violence and discriminations; girls who do not even get an opportunity to be born due to feticide for sex selection; girls like so many of illustrated who are burdened with providing care work for their families whether it is by fetching water or fuel, by carrying the responsibility of having to care for their siblings, cooking and robbed of their opportunities. Many of you are often systematically denied and discriminated against in education and it was very graphically brought out—at all levels—primary, secondary tertiary and in vocational and STEM fields. Also, too many are forced into child marriage and early pregnancy; and girls in rural communities -or remote areas with no access to basic services and infrastructure.  All of this arrests the development of girls on that path.

The theme of this year, as you know is about girls in emergencies. So you can imagine the compounded discrimination and inequality that girls face–the girls on the move, migrants, refugees, in health crises, climate change induced extreme weather emergencies. They face cumulative layers of discrimination and are exposed to higher rates of exploitation, sexual, physical and psychological abuse, violence, lack of access to sexual and reproductive health-care services, human trafficking and contemporary forms of slavery.

The presentations today have brought out the intersectionality of this discrimination against girls, in this country as well, who face unique and intersecting forms of marginalization, vulnerability and discrimination on the grounds of their religion, race or socio-economic status, sexual orientation or disabilities, and I want to emphasize disabilities. I reflect on our responsibility, as the international community to STEP up and SPEAK OUT. We can no longer continue to fail our girls!

Now more than ever it has become increasingly clear that if we do not aggressively and urgently address the challenges that affect the girl child, we will never achieve the world that we want.

Every single girl must be supported through their voice, participation, and partnership in addressing all intersecting forms of injustices that hinder the full enjoyment of their human rights.

We must join efforts and continue to work together to empower girls, through opportunities in education, skills training and livelihood-development and their needs must inform humanitarian planning and programming at all levels. This is what we at UN Women do through our programmes, including the Global Flagship Initiative on Women’s Leadership, Empowerment and Protection in Crisis Response. Also, marrying that with our youth strategy for young women’s empowerment in all circumstances. 

UN Women remains committed to standing up and fighting with you for the rights of girls everywhere, in every situation and in every way. That is why we are working hard to drive a gender-responsive implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Please make that your slogan. SDG 5 implementation, the high five and also gender-responsive humanitarian action and resilience building.

Earlier today I wanted to evoke, at the official celebration of the International Day of the Girl, to make a pledge. Governments, the United Nations, Civil Society, everyone, all actors, in good times and in crisis:

We pledge to work for, include and empower girls and young women always.

To respect and protect women’s human rights, and girls’ human rights in all circumstances, including emergencies.

We pledge to keep girls safe and secure. We pledge to nurture their capabilities in all fields.

We pledge to make girls’ voices, talent and creativity integral to decision making.

We pledge to promote and harness girls’ leadership as solution providers.

And last but not least, to unleash girl power in all its dimensions so that your potential is fully realized!

As we celebrate International Day of the Girl today, I want to reassure you that you can count on us and we will count on you too as you continue blazing the trail and leading the way for a peaceful, just and prosperous world, where every girl has a real opportunity to reach her full potential.

I thank you.