Fathers and the International Day of the Girl Child

Fathers around the world: celebrate! October 11 is the UN day recognizing half of our children.

We need this day because in many parts of the world, our daughters face obstacles that our sons could only imagine. Lower enrollment in school. Sexual harassment and assault on the streets, at school, or going to the well to fetch water. The threat of forced marriage in childhood. Female genital cutting. Lack of access to reproductive health care. Trafficking into prostitution. The grim list goes on and on.

While many of these problems are specific to certain parts of the Global South, we need this day here in North America and Europe where girls’ educational attainment is now higher than boys’.

After all, adolescent girls and young women face sexual harassment and sexual assault at rates higher than any other age group—and often get blamed for this abuse. They’re still bombarded with distorted, over-sexualized images of femininity in advertising and popular culture—and at the same are prevented from accessing safe and effective birth control or therapeutic abortions.

And despite some real progress, they still can’t look forward to equality in the workforce, in religion, in politics, or in sports.

We’re both fathers of girls and let us tell you, all this outrages us.

At the same time we’re encouraged to see the worldwide emergence of a new generation of fathers who equally value their daughters. Let’s not forget that courageous Malala Yousafzai, the 16 year old Pakistani girl who challenged the Taliban over her right to an education, credits her dad for speaking out for girls’ education and encouraging her to take a stand.

Fathers are increasingly taking on our share of the caregiving work—and not just the fun, quality time, but the slogging quantity time. And as we do so, we provide an example to our daughters that they should expect nothing less than boys and men who fully respect them, who support their equal rights, and who will never use violence in their relationships.

These fathers, too, also provide a model to our sons of men who respect and value girls and women, their independence, strength, and intelligence. We provide models to our sons of how we need to equally share the work traditionally done by women and shunned by men.

So, fathers, it’s our daughters’ day today. The International Day of the Girl Child.

Which makes it our day to celebrate, too!

Gary Barker, Ph.D. and Michael Kaufman, Ph.D., both fathers of girls, are leaders of www.Men-Care.org, a new international campaign for fathers to do 50 percent of care work. They are writing a book on the global transformation of fatherhood

Update: A slightly different version of this blog  appears at Huffington Post at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-kaufman-phd/fathers-embrace-international-day-of-the-girl-child_b_4085622.html

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