Today, people around the world are recognizing girls’ rights — and the challenges that girls face. It’s International Day of the Girl Child, an annual observance organized by the United Nations. President Obama has officially declared it to be International Day of the Girl in the U.S., calling on Americans to help advance equality and opportunity for girls.
One of the most important challenges facing girls today is slavery — from domestic servitude in Haiti, to fishing slavery in Ghana, to debt bondage in India and child marriage in Congo. Many girls are forced into prostitution as sex slaves, and many girls in other forms of slavery endure sexual exploitation as well.
Part of the Free the Slaves mission is to help girls in slavery escape and recover, and to help prevent vulnerable girls from falling prey to traffickers in the first place.
Our most recent research report includes stories from girls forced into early marriage — and the toll it is taking on their lives. It’s called Wives in Slavery: Forced Marriage in the Congo. The groundbreaking expose examines how child brides are often treated as property of their husbands, to be treated in any way he pleases.
The Girls Not Brides coalition, of which FTS is a member, notes that early forced marriage is a global problem, affecting 14 million girls worldwide each year.
Also on our website, the Free the Slaves Freedom Awards webpage features video stories of girls who have survived various forms of slavery in the U.S., Cambodia, Philippines, India and Uganda. Many of these victims have escaped, and are now working as adults to help girls in slavery break free.
This year’s official theme for the International Day of the Girl Child focuses on education. Educating girls “is a powerful transformative force for societies and girls themselves,” the U.N. notes. Anti-slavery activists have been observing how important education can be to preventing the enslavement of girls. Establishing and improving schools in rural communities makes girls far less vulnerable to trafficking.
Spread the word. International Day of the Girl Child is a day to take stock of the state of the world for girls today — and to join together in a common vision of a better world for girls everywhere tomorrow.