October 11, 2014 10:50 pm
Updated: October 12, 2014 1:34 am

B.C. celebrates International Day of the Girl

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Worldwide, up to 50 percent of sexual assaults are committed against girls under 16.

According to UN statistics, about 130 million girls and women in the world have experienced female genital mutilation.

And 142 million girls will become child brides in the next decade.

Why? Because they are girls.

The numbers are staggering and speak to just some of the many harsh realities millions of girls and women face around the world daily.

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Saturday, October 11 is the United Nation’s International Day of the Girl where people celebrate and advocate for a brighter future for girls around the world.

In British Columbia, a local organization called Global Girl Power marked the world wide movement to improve the lives of girls by hosting a community conference at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Surrey. The conference featured a panel of local experts speaking in six areas of concern: health, violence and safety, self defense, girls and gangs, cyber bullying, and education and empowerment.

At the conference, education was hailed as one of the keys to giving females freedom.

“The biggest thing is having belongingness because if it’s happening in Africa or if it’s happening in India we tend to think it’s very far away, but we live in a world that is very interconnected right now,” says Navi Gill, the co-founder of Global Girl Power.

Even as two very important figures campaigning for children’s’ rights, Malala Yousefzai and India’s Kailash Satyarthi were honoured with this year’s Nobel peace prize, Gill says the work to empower girls is far from over.

Read more: Malala Yousafzai, Kailash Satyarthi win Nobel Peace Prize

Malala Yousafzai poses with a bouquet after speaking during a media conference at the Library of Birmingham, in Birmingham, England, Friday, Oct. 10, 2014, after she was named as winner of The Nobel Peace Prize.

AP Photo/Rui Vieira

“What’s happening no matter who it is, where it is, it should be a priority for all of us to solve those problems,” says Gill.

That message is behind a clever marketing campaign by a children’s development charity, Plan International. In an attempt to raise awareness of the approximately 39,000 child brides globally, the organization told the story of Thea, a 12-year-old Norwegian child bride.

The story is made up, but it happens to be a reality for tens of thousands of girls. The organization aimed to bring home the issue of child marriages by creating a shock factor.

Read more: The story behind Thea, the 12-year-old child bride from Norway 

“When you see a young Norwegian girl talking about becoming married at age 12 I think it can cause people to stop in their tracks and open up a dialogue about what was happening to millions of girls around the world every day,” says Rosemary McCarney, president and CEO of Plan Canada.

Thea is a 12-year-old girl living in Norway and on Saturday she is set to marry a 37-year-old man named Geir, becoming the country’s first official child bride.

(Plan Norway)

 

WATCH: Rosemary McCarney from Plan Canada talks about Thea’s story with Aaron McArthur from Global BC- BC 1’s Prime.

One of the panelists at Saturday’s conference in Surrey, Maureen McGrath from CKNW’s Sunday Night Sex Show says women have made a lot of strides, but there is still a “long way to go.”

In fact by 2015, according to UNESCO, 64% of the world’s illiterate population will be women. A number, activists, both men and women around the world hope to change.

© 2014 Shaw Media

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