I like to think that there has been no better time to be a woman. That we’re well on our way to winning the battle for equality. That if I work hard there is nothing I can’t achieve. That I won’t be limited by my gender.
The millions of girls affected by FGM and child marriage are testament to a different reality.
One in three girls in developing countries are married by the age of 18. This isn’t just a problem for developing countries. In the UK, hundreds of girls are being forced into marriage every year.
The appalling violation towards girls doesn’t end there. Female genital mutilation (FGM) affects up to 140 million women around the world. Over the next decade at least 30 million girls will be at risk of FGM and in the UK more than 20,000 girls are at risk every year. FGM results in severe pain, serious problems in childbirth, physical disability and in some cases, death.
It goes without saying that these girls are at greater risk of physical, psychological, emotional, financial and sexual abuse.
It seems incomprehensible that my fellow sisters are suffering this abuse and violation in a world that largely claims to be progressive, fair, just and equal.
With many inspiring women leaders throughout the world it seems the proverbial glass ceiling has well and truly been shattered. Former secretaries of state Hilary Clinton and Condoleezza Rice; German prime minister, Angela Merkel, opposition leader of Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi; South Korea’s first woman president, Park Geun-hye and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg to name a few.
Women are excelling in so many areas, but for so many women around the world; the story is not one of success but of pain.
We have a chance to end this atrocious abuse within a generation. Strong leadership, pledges from governments across the globe and the support of people like you and me is seeing a building momentum for change.
In London this week Girl Summit launched a global movement to end FGM and early and forced marriage for all girls within a generation.
By doing so they hope to preserve girls’ childhoods, promote their education, reduce their exposure to violence and abuse, and allow them to fulfil their potential in life.
Every girl and woman should have the right to have control over their own bodies and live a life free of violence and abuse.
We each have a part to play in securing dignity, respect, opportunities and basic human rights for girls and women around the world. To paraphrase Edmund Burke, “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good women to do nothing”. So get involved. Make your voice heard for those that don’t have a voice.
Use the privileged freedom, influence and unlimited opportunities afforded to you and take a stand against FGM and child marriage. Pledge your support to the Girl Summit campaign through Twitter and Facebook.
The UK government’s work to improve the lives of girls and women in the world’s poorest countries.
The UK government’s work to end violence against women and girls in the UK.
Other ways to get involved
Catapult.org is Women Deliver’s crowdfunding platform for girls’ and women’s human rights and development around the world. It connects people who care about justice with the people on the ground working to improve girls’ and women’s lives. Find out more about their projects on FGM and child marriage.