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Oct. 11 marks International Day of the Girl

Published: Thursday, Oct. 10 2013 5:09 p.m. MDT

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, left, applauds as the members of the ‘Malala Day’ Youth Assembly wish Malala Yousafzai, center, a happy birthday, Friday, July 12, 2013 at United Nations headquarters. Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager shot by the Taliban for promoting education for girls, celebrated her 16th birthday on Friday by addressing the United Nations.

Mary Altaffer, Associated Press

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In 2011, the United Nations established Oct. 11 as International Day of the Girl Child, and this year's theme is Innovating for Girls’ Education, according to the United Nations website.

"While there has been significant progress in improving girls’ access to education over the last two decades, many girls, particularly the most marginalized, continue to be deprived of this basic right," according to the web page. "Girls in many countries are still unable to attend school and complete their education due to safety-related, financial, institutional and cultural barriers. ... The transformative potential for girls and societies promised through girls' education is yet to be realized."

The day is being promoted in the United States by an entirely youth-led group called Day of the Girl, which has tool kits and information on celebrating the day. It is also spreading the message via social media through a Facebook page and the hashtag #dayofthegirl.

On the Day of the Girl website, a 15-year-old girl in Nepal recounts the barriers she faces to getting an education. "I am the first child of my parents," she writes. "I have a small brother at home. If the first child were a son, my parents might be happy and would be confident as their future is assured by having a son. But I am a daughter. I complete all the household tasks, go to school, again do the household activities in the evening, and at night only I do my school homework and I study. Despite all the activities, my parents do not give value or recognition to me. They only have praise for my brother, as he is the son."

Also on Oct. 11, the Nobel Peace Prize will be awarded, and the winner may be a girl who fought for her right to an education, Malala Yousafzai, according to NPR. She is described as "the 16-year-old schoolgirl who was shot by the Taliban last year for her outspoken advocacy of girls' education in her native Pakistan."

Earlier this year, Yousafzai appeared in front of the United Nations and spoke of the importance of girls' education. "Let us pick up our books and our pens. They are our most powerful weapons," she said in the speech, reported Time magazine. "One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world. Education is the only solution. Education first."

Email: dmerling@deseretnews.com

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