This week's "Photo of the Week" comes to us from USAID/Vietnam's Richard Nyberg, who took this photo in the central highlands of Vietnam on October 9, 2012. The young girl pictured is one of the many ethnic minority girls benefiting from the support of USAID, the East Meets West Foundation, and the people and authorities in Kon Tum, Vietnam.
On Thursday, October 11, 2012, the world marked the first-ever celebration of the International Day of the Girl Child. As USAID noted on its web page devoted to the day, the occasion provides an opportunity for "reaching out and educating others about the status of girls and the positive results that can be obtained by investing in them" and offers young women an opportunity to interact with positive role models.
The day prior, on October 10, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Archbishop Desmond Tutu spoke to a group of 200 Girl Scouts visiting the Department of State in Washington, D.C. In her remarks, Secretary Clinton spotlighted the issue of child marriage. She said, "Every year, 10 million girls under the age of 18 become child brides, and many of them under the age of 16. And many of those girls are forced into early marriage, which robs them of the opportunity to continue their education, and it threatens their health, and it traps them in lives of poverty."
Secretary Clinton announced new U.S. government and private initiatives to prevent child marriage and promote girls' education around the world. As Secretary Clinton said, “putting women and girls at the center of our foreign policy is not only the right thing to do, it's the smart thing to do. When you give girls the opportunity to go to school, receive quality health care, and be free from violence and discrimination, you are also laying the foundation for stronger families and communities."
U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues Melanne Verveer observed that as we "mark the first-ever International Day of the Girl Child...we are filled with hope, but also a sense of urgency." As Ambassador Verveer said, we must redouble our efforts to ensure that governments, communities, and families work together to improve the lives of girls worldwide.
You can learn more about U.S. efforts to empower women and girls politically, socially, and economically around the world by following @S_GWI on Twitter or visiting the web page of the State Department's Office of Global Women's Issues. In the comments section below, let us know how you celebrated the first International Day of the Girl Child, or share your thoughts on the challenges facing girls around the world today.