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Celebrate Solutions: Fighting Everyday Sexism for a Better Future for Girls

By: Lauren Himiak, Women Deliver

October 11th marked a significant day for girls around the world. International Day of the Girl Child, an annual event, calls attention to the most pressing issues facing girls today. This year’s focus, selected by UNICEF, focused on ending violence against girls. By highlighting the ways in which violence limits the choices and opportunities of girls, the internationally recognized observance engaged national governments with support from civil society, the private sector, media, young people, the United Nations, and men and women everywhere.

Observances like ICD are critical to the development of girls, raising awareness to important social issues, building alliances, and creating a unified voice that can create a cultural shift. As the global movement continues its fight to end violence against girls, one issue that must be highlighting is the everyday sexism girls are exposed to. From ‘cat calling’ to sexual assault, girls are being exposed to varying degrees of sexual threat, degradation, and public humiliation. In a world in which 1 in 3 women will be raped or beaten in her lifetime, it becomes that much more vital to raise awareness and put an end to sexism so that girls can grow to their full potential. 

Fortunately, there are projects and advocates not only working to do that, but also succeeding. One such example is the Everyday Sexism Project – a Catapult-funded project that started out as a simple website where women (and men) could record their daily experiences of sexism, whether it be name-calling or rape. Its mission was to make clear the scale of the problem and educating girls and women that they have the right so say no and change the conversation on sexism and gender. Since its launch in April 2012, more than 75,000 girls and women have shared their stories from all over the world on the project’s website. Women of all ages, races, ethnicities, and sexual orientations have added their voices and within one year, the Everyday Sexism Project had over 150,000 followers on social media and an estimated 50,000 reached by media outreach work and collaborations with other organizations. Today, the project is continuing to grow globally, with a new initiative to amplify the voices of refugee women currently in the works.

Initiatives like the Everyday Sexism Project go beyond simply talking about an issue, but are finding success by magnifying an issue through the voices of real girls and women through hands-on outreach. An online forum where girls and women could share their stories has grown into an outreach campaign with schools and universities across the UK to educate students on sexism, harassment, and consent. The project has delivered talks on discrimination for local businesses, and recently held at event at the United Nations in New York to share findings and recommendations with key stakeholders from the international community.

In order for girls to have the future they want and deserve, social constructions of sexism and gender equality must be addressed. So what do we do? For starters, we know that girls and women are at the heart of development and that investing in girls can lead to improved health, a stronger economy, and even a stronger family. For example, when 10 percent or more girls go to school, a country’s GDP increases by an average of 3 percent. The longer a girl stays in school, the more likely she is to marry later, survive childbirth, and raise healthy children. When girls and women are able to exercise their rights, they live longer, healthier, and more fulfilled lives. In order to do that, the world must address the root of sexism: that girls and women are not seen as deserving the same rights as boys and men.

We must continue to support all efforts to eliminate sexism, and look for projects like Everyday Sexism that are having high-impact success through workshops and global outreach with schools and universities. We must continue to educate on the destructiveness of sexism and ensure that girls are afforded the future they deserve. It’s not only the right thing to do, it’s a smart investment to create a better world for all.

Photo via the Everyday Sexism Project/Catapult

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