We Need More than Just One #DayoftheGirl

Commentary by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS

Today is being recognized as the official International Day of the Girl Child which is meant to recognize the rights and girls and the unique challenges they face around the world – but why stop at just one day? Aren’t our girls worth a lifetime investment?

According to the United Nations (UN), October 11 has been declared the International Day of the Girl Child and is meant to focus attention on the need to promote girls’ “empowerment and the fulfillment of their human rights.”

While touting the advances the global community has made in improving the lives of girls during early childhood, the UN laments the lack of progress being made in the second decade of life where they are not obtaining the education they need, are being forced into child marriages, and are being denied information about “reproductive health and protecting themselves against unwanted pregnancy” and sexually transmitted diseases.

But our girls’ needs go far beyond this, especially at this critical time in their lives. They are living in an age where women are routinely objectified and are being pressured into achieving impossible beauty standards. Teen magazines are filled with images of perfectly air-brushed models in revealing clothing and heavy makeup with feature stories aimed at helping girls how to “look hot” in order to find love. These are all the wrong messages being sent at a time in life when developing girls are particularly impressionable.

This weekend, the Harrisburg Diocese is hosting its annual Women’s Conference where I will be giving the keynote address. Being the co-author of a new program for teen girls entitled Young Women of Grace which is designed to confront these issues head-on, the need for a permanent #DayoftheGirl is close to my heart.

In our program, girls are empowered by learning about authentic femininity and what it means to be a daughter of God. Their dignity comes from this truth, not from the way they look! Instead of letting the media identify them as objects for someone else’s gratification, they are taught to appreciate their feminine genius and the many ways they can use it to save the peace of the world.

“Young Women of Grace is a beautiful Catholic program that teaches young girls what it means to be a daughter of God and discern the mission that he has for them,” said Ann Marie Lapkowicz who facilitates the Young Women of Grace program at Holy Name of Jesus parish in Harrisburg to The Catholic Witness.

As the mother of seven children, including two daughters – one of whom participates in the Young Women of Grace Program – Mrs. Lapkowicz recognizes how critical the program is in today’s world.

“The program challenges the girls to think about their special call from the Church,” she said, pointing to the Second Vatican Council’s closing message in which women were told that their influence in the world has never before been as great as it is now.

“….the hour is coming, in fact has come, when the vocation of woman is being acknowledged in its fullness, the hour in which women acquire in the world an influence, an effect and a power never hitherto achieved. That is why, at this moment when the human race is undergoing so deep a transformation, women impregnated with a spirit of the Gospel can do so much to aid humanity in not falling.”

This is the kind of empowerment our girls need. While it’s wonderful to recognize the challenges girls face, let’s recognize all of those challenges and do on more than just one day a year!

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