International Day of the Girl

Around 250 girls born today will experience abuse from an intimate partner. This should be unacceptable.
Alice with Faith (not her real name), one of the girls she mentors and supports to go to school. Photo: Eliza Powell/Camfed
On this day, the sixth Annual Day of the Girl, I am grateful to think of the progress this Government has made and eager to see how we can shape the future opportunities for women and girls which are growing and must be taken advantage of - but I must also stress how much further there is to go.
The thing about a taboo is that until someone opens it up for conversation or debate it can stay like an elephant in the room - a big issue everyone is aware of but avoids discussing or acknowledging. Once people start talking, however, taboos that have stood for decades and centuries can be quickly dismantled.
In 2016, Sierra Leone was ranked in the 10 worst countries to be a girl in terms of gender inequality. Girls in Sierra Leone
This morning I sat in my first Shadow Cabinet meeting. As I looked around the table at the other Labour MPs set on making our country a better and more fair place to live, I had to stop from pinching myself. How had I, a working-class girl who was the first in my family to go to university, ended up as Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities?
Often we speak of 'children' with no one child in mind. Statistics reduce them to no more than data to be used in policymaking, academic discussion or press statements. But, of course, every child has a unique experience, and while 'big data' is important for understanding trends and patterns, we mustn't forget the need to take the time to understand children's lives in more depth.
International Day of the Girl Child is about standing with girls like Isatu so that she can create the future she wants for her daughter. It serves as an important reminder to all of us to examine gender inequality in our own communities and our global community. Tackling these problems won't just benefit girls, it will benefit everyone.
Today is international Day of the Girl and I am already anticipating the voices of doubt that will question why we celebrate - and sound the alarm - over global girls' rights so loudly each year. And they will question why, this year in particular, the Day of the Girl shines a spotlight on adolescent girls.
11 October, is the International Day of the Girl Child. I can think of no better way to mark this important day than by the launch of The Girl Generation, the Africa-led global campaign to end FGM in a generation.