Isobel Coleman

Democracy in Development

Coleman maps the intersections between political reform, economic growth, and U.S. policy in the developing world.

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Observing the International Day of the Girl

by Isobel Coleman
October 11, 2012

Students hold a placard during a rally in Peshawar, Pakistan on October 11, 2012 to condemn the attack on schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai (Fayaz Aziz/Courtesy Reuters). Students hold a placard during a rally in Peshawar, Pakistan on October 11, 2012 to condemn the attack on schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai (Fayaz Aziz/Courtesy Reuters).

Today is the United Nations’ first ever International Day of the Girl. The UN’s designation of this day reflects the growing awareness of the special challenges girls face around the world. It comes at a sober moment: just this week, the Taliban in Pakistan shot a 14 year-old schoolgirl, Malala Yousafzai, for her outspoken advocacy of girls’ education.  Although Malala survived the attack, she is in critical condition and the Taliban has vowed to finish the job if and when she leaves the hospital.

The case of this incredibly brave young advocate serves as a potent reminder of how prejudice, marginalization, poverty, and even outright terrorism threatens hundreds of millions of girls around the world in their pursuit of better lives.

Today, in an op-ed I wrote with actress Freida Pinto, we commemorate the International Day of the Girl, reflecting on girls’ long road ahead as well as reasons for hope.  As we argue:

We know there is no silver bullet for raising the status of girls. What is required are long-term investment in girls’ education, support for women’s economic empowerment and increased access to health care and political participation. Research shows that educating girls is one of the most cost-effective interventions that can be made…Given the deep-seated cultural constraints that girls face, we also recognize the important role of men and boys in raising the status of women. Harmful traditional practices and gender norms cannot be changed without male participation and support.

You can read the full article here.

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