Today is International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and the start of #16days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence. Girls are part of our society and sources of hope for the future. They are investments worth making! Here are 4 things we need to focus on:

1Protect girls from violence.

FACT: 1 in 3 women on the planet will be beaten or raped in her lifetime. Sexual violence against girls can take different forms – sexual abuse and exploitation, rape and incest. Girls experience violence in their homes, schools, on the streets, within communities and online in cyberspace. Too often, these crimes go unpunished.

2Stop child pregnancies.

Did you know 18,000 girls get pregnant each year in Malaysia? When a girl gets pregnant, she’s often labelled and blamed. But have we ever asked ourselves how we failed our girls? Are they victims of neglect? Have we empowered them with the knowledge and skills to make informed choices about their bodies, health and relationships? Have we taught our boys and men to respect girls and women? We need to do more to invest in girls. A child is not a mother.

3Prevent HIV infection.

Gender discrimination makes teen girls particularly vulnerable to HIV infection. Girls are more likely than boys to be uninformed about HIV. Girls are also more likely than boys to be tricked, coerced or forced into having sex with someone older. It’s in our hands to empower girls with the knowledge, skills and options they need to make informed choices about their bodies, health and relationships!

4End child marriage.

Between 2005-2015, close to 9,000 girls of various faiths in Malaysia were wed before they turned 18 according to a UNICEF Working Paper on Child Marriage. The day a girl is married, her entire future is compromised. Girls who marry as children are particularly at risk of violence from their partners or their partners’ families. This #16Days of Activism, take a stand against child marriage.

Now that you’ve heard the facts, don’t stay silent in the face of violence against girls in any form. Call it out every time, everywhere.

Improving girls’ rights isn’t just about girls – it’s about achieving gender equality. When girls are educated, healthy and safe, they have the power to create a safer and brighter future for themselves, their families and even their entire communities!

What’s good for girls, is good for Malaysia!