Celebrating the International Day of the Girl

In the developing world, girls deal with life-threatening issues like sex trafficking, genital mutilation, and early marriage at a far greater rate than boys. The leading cause of death for girls younger than 15 is pregnancy, Holly Gordon, Executive Director of 10x10.org, told Yahoo! Shine in a recent interview. But even in a first-world country like the United States, girls are more likely than boys to live in poverty or be victims of domestic abuse or sexual assault.

In an effort to help girls all around the world overcome adversity and reach their full potential, the United Nation declared October 11 to be the first-ever International Day of the Girl.

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"In reserving a day for advocacy and action by and for girls, the UN has signaled its commitment to end gender stereotypes, discrimination, violence, and economic disparities that disproportionately affect girls," the UN said in a statement.

And the key to leveling the playing field, Gordon says, is education. In conjunction with 10x10, a global, grass-roots campaign to educate girls, more than 400 people and groups plan to host events on October 11 to celebrate the International Day of the Girl. The London Eye in England and the Empire State Building in New York will light their towers bright pink in recognition of the day, The Christian Post reported.

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"When you look at the data that shows what happens when you invest in a girl, particularly through adolescence, it has a ripple effect that is felt across generations, across the community," Gordon says. The impact can often be felt by the time that newly educated girl has children of her own. "It's one intervention that catches a whole host of challenges related to poverty," Gordon adds.

But in this day and age, what can parents do, especially if poverty isn't an issue? The experts at the Health Resource Center of Our Bodies Ourselves suggest that moms and dads go out of their way to make home feel like a safe haven.

"Girls receive hostile messages from society about how they should look," they point out. "When they are at home, they need to feel protected from the constant scrutiny regarding their weight, their complexion, their hair and every other aspect of their appearance."

It's important to teach girls to value brains over beauty. Studies show that girls tend to have higher IQs than boys, obliterating that age-old claim that girls simply aren't smart enough to study math, technology, and science.

It can be difficult to imagine how much more of a struggle it can be to raise a daughter in a developing country, though. The centerpiece of the 10x10 campaign is their new documentary: "Girl Rising" will premiere in the Spring of 2013 in theaters and on CNN and CNN International. The full-length feature film, which includes voice performances by Meryl Streep, Academy Award Nominee Anne Hathaway, Kerry Washington, and Selena Gomez, tells the stories of several girls from around the world who are struggling to overcome obstacles in their quest for education.

"International Day of the Girl gives girls a chance to be leaders, to be agents of change for their sisters abroad," Gordon says. "The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world."