On December 19, 2011, the United Nations General Assembly declared October 11 the official International Day of the Girl Child. In today’s world, there are 1.1 billion of her, and she is reason both for celebration and for concern.
Girls are curious, creative, and courageous in surprising ways. They are insatiable learners, inventive, and born leaders. It’s in their DNA.
The girls in these photos are also thriving. They are loved and nurtured. Their thirst for knowledge is being fed. Those who love them also believe in them and in the gifts God has entrusted to them. Their futures are bright, and I find it joyfully energizing to be around them.
But not every little ezer born in the world is so blessed.
Patriarchy tilts the world in favor of boys, with appalling consequence for girls everywhere. Girls are often devalued, deprived of educated, marginalized, and even discarded. In many places, being born female amounts to a capital offense. Millions of girls have been aborted, abandoned, their little lives snuffed out for no other reason than they are girls. Girls can be considered liabilities instead of assets. In developing nations, child marriage rates are epidemic, with one in three girls married off before the age of eighteen. For her family—one less mouth to feed. But early marriage means formal education comes to a halt for these child brides.
In creating an official International Day of the Girl Child the UN “focuses attention on the need to address the challenges girls face and to promote girls’ empowerment and the fulfillment of their human rights.”
On this year’s International Day of the Girl Child, the United Nations is highlighting girls in crisis regions. Wars, famines, dislocation, and terrorism escalate the already high risks girls already face.
Every 10 minutes, somewhere in the world, an adolescent girl dies as a result of violence. In humanitarian emergencies, gender-based violence often increases, subjecting girls to sexual and physical violence, child marriage, exploitation and trafficking. Adolescent girls in conflict zones are 90 per cent more likely to be out of school when compared to girls in conflict-free countries, compromising their future prospects for work and financial independence as adults.
When the United Nations becomes a collective voice of advocacy for the girl child, it also raises the question, what is the church doing for girls? Does the church see girls as assets—not simply as future wives and mothers—but for the gifts God has entrusted to them? Do we have a vision for girls that will inspire them to reach for all God calls them to be and do? Do we value them as indispensable to the work God calls us all to do—as problem solvers, innovators, strategic thinkers, light bearers, gospel ministers now, not just as adults?
According to the Creator, every girl child born bears his image and is an ezer-warrior from birth. When creating the female, he was emphatic that “It is not good” for her brothers to be without her. This is not because brothers need their sisters for menial tasks they can easily do for themselves. The Creator wasn’t demeaning men and boys. To the contrary, he was underscoring the enormous scope of their joint mission, the daunting challenges and fierce resistance they would face together, and the fact that the work he entrusts to humanity requires all hands on deck.
Seems the Creator was well ahead of the UN in affirming and empowering the girl child. Shouldn’t we as Christians be leading the charge when it comes to valuing and empowering the girl child in our midst and beyond?
At least one pastor thinks so. My friend Ashley Schnarr Easter was profoundly moved by that pastor’s prayer during the baptism/dedication of a baby girl–a little ezer she described as “an adorable little thing with a good set of lungs on her.”
As the pastor prayed over her, he prayed that she would always use that strong voice, that she would become a great spiritual leader and lead all of us watching, that she would do daring things so bold that others will be amazed by her courage. He prayed that she would always feel loved and welcomed by the Church and that no one would ever give her reason to feel unsafe there.
This is what the church should wish for all little girls (and boys).
Amen to that!
To read about a courageous girl in crisis: “Construction of the Glass Ceiling Starts Early”