Libraries Empowering Girls: Marking the International Day of the Girl Child

October 11th marks the International Day of the Girl Child, first introduced by the United Nations in 2012. This day aims to raise awareness about the challenges that girls worldwide face, draw attention to their needs and rights, and promote their empowerment.

As the 2017 IFLA Development and Access to Information report highlights, the ability to access, apply and meaningfully use information is crucial to empowering girls and women. Access to information is key to girls’ right to education, their right to health, their rights to participate in social lives and enjoy the benefits of both culture and science.

That is why libraries worldwide, with their mission to deliver equitable access to knowledge and education, have an important role to play to ensure that girls enjoy their fundamental rights and have more opportunities to realise their full potential. Many libraries organise or participate in different initiatives to empower girls in their communities – below are some examples of the work they do.

From Bridging the Digital Gap…

The gender gap between girls and boys pursuing education in STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths – is well-documented. In many parts of the world, the gender digital divide – access and use of ICT and the internet – remains highly pronounced. To help address these inequalities, many libraries offer learning opportunities to encourage girls’ interest and self-confidence in technology. These range from basic skills for everyday use of IT to advanced courses – such as robotics or coding – inspiring girls to pursue careers in fields like IT and engineering.

Many libraries in the United States work together with the nonprofit organisation Girls Who Code and host free weekly coding clubs, usually for middle and high school students. This initiative aims to tackle the gender gap in Computer Science and sets up clubs, camps and programmes in schools, libraries or other organisations. The participating libraries offer a safe and welcoming space where girls can learn new skills with the help of librarian hosts. The NGO founder has recently noted that almost 60% of the Girls Who Code clubs are hosted in libraries today.

Other libraries develop and initiate programs of their own, like the MakeHer program at the Sunnyvale Public Library. The library organises engineering- and science-themed workshops for middle-school girls as well as their mothers. Similarly, the Christchurch South Library hosts a makerspace club for girls, which covers several topics from 3D design to robotics; while girls attending the Girls Get Coding summer program at the Berkeley Public Library learned how to build an app to tackle a social issue which was important or interesting for them.

… To Many Other Areas

ICT skills is just one area where libraries work to empower girls. Libraries can provide access to crucial medical information to ensure girls’ health: for example, the Laterbiokorshie Library in Ghana organised a massive reproductive health education campaign among school children between the ages 10 and 16 to curb teenage pregnancy.

Libraries can work to make sure girls have positive role-models; they can build their self-esteem and confidence– from assembling inspirational collections to offering entire empowerment and confidence-building programs for girls.

On the International Day of the Girl Child, share how your library works to help meet girls’ needs and reach their potential, and inspire others to take action!

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