Today, October 11th, marks the second annual International Day of the Girl Child, a day marked by the UN to recognize the challenges girls face all over the world. Nestled in the valley of the Okanagan, and in Canada in general, it may seem like this day is more for girls “over there”. “Over there”, those third world countries  where girls do not have access or rights to get even an elementary education, places where girls are sold into marriage as preteens, places where girls are brutalized with gender mutilation, and stripped of other basic freedoms and rights.

“Over there”  seems far from home. The concept of this day, however, is in fact, very close to home. While the majority of Canadian girls are not threatened with forced marriages and clitoral circumcision, we are still faced with violence and inequality. We easily access education, far beyond just elementary school and have access to quality health care. So perhaps given our illusion of equality at times, we should be even more disheartened at the levels of violence against women that we still do have in our midst.

Kelowna has had an increase in their overall crime rate and now has the highest crime rate among Canada’s major cities with sexual assault offences increasing. Those assaults are largely against adolescents and young women. According to Stats Canada, across the country, the rate of violence against women 15-24 was 42% higher than women age 25 – 34 and double that of women 35-44.

And there’s more. In 2011, 8,200 girls under the age of 12 were victims of violent crime. More than half of those crimes are committed by a family member. Almost 27,000 girls between12-17 were victims of violent crime – not from strangers, but primarily from people they knew and the violent crime rate for adolescents almost twice as high as that for adult women.

This is why we are so passionate about empowering girls and why we continue to offer prevention programs for young girls in this community. We celebrate the freedoms that we have fought to enjoy in this country for our young girls and women; we also work tirelessly to continue to want to empower them in ways that help reduce the risks of violence towards them.

Visit us at www.GirlsUnited.ca and consider partnering with us to offer these groups in your community and schools so that on this Day of the Girl, and every day, we can help bring awareness and prevention girls and young women in our community as we stand as support the Day of the Girl!

For more information on The International Day of the Girl, visit the UN at  http://www.un.org/en/events/girlchild/

To contact us for more information on Girls United, visit http://www.GirlsUnited.ca