To inspire the world through love, faith and hope | Sunday Observer
International Day of the Girl Child 2020:

To inspire the world through love, faith and hope

11 October, 2020

Girl children across the world hold a powerful role in society, having the capability to multi-task in the household, society and economy of the world. It is of vital importance to respect and celebrate all girls despite their class, race, religion or background status because it is they who inspire, break boundaries and take charge of their own future.

According to the statistics of UN Women, each year, 12 million girls under 18 are married; 130 million girls worldwide are still out of school; and about 15 million adolescent girls aged 15-19 have experienced forced sex. Adolescence is a critical period that can determine the trajectory of girls’ lives.

It is a stage at which key investments and support can set girls on a path towards empowerment, or when discrimination, recurrent constraints, harmful practices, and violence can send them down a negative spiral with lifelong consequences, not just for themselves, but for societies and future gender discrimination.

Gender discrimination

In today’s context, the deeply entrenched gender discrimination and social norms put adolescent girls at risk of violence. This has led to the compromising of their safety and health during the transition from childhood to adulthood. Violence can begin early in girls’ lives, but the gender dimensions of violence and abuse – physical, sexual and psychological – are more pronounced in adolescence.

Empowering young girls through education, technical and vocational education and training as well as life-skills, social support, knowledge and participation can help end the cycle of violence before it persists, or even before it begins.

Having recognised these factors, the congregation of the Good Shephard sisters, instituted under the patron saint, St. Mary Euphrasia has taken it upon themselves to ensure the inclusion of girl-children into society and that they are brought up to be strong young women.

Since their commencement, the Good Shepherd Sisters in Sri Lanka have been taking care of widows and orphans from the island nation’s battle against terrorism for 26 years.

Having come from Ireland, during a course of 150 years, the Sisters charism has always been to tend to young children and women. Set across the country, the congregation provides girl-children with education, skills training and leadership formation before settling them in life with a job or marriage, taking into consideration the goals and ambitions that they would like to achieve someday.

Author, George Kaitholil states: “Let us pray earnestly for the girl child. Let us ask Mary, the greatest girl-child ever born, to help all to understand the value and beauty of every girl, and to guide us in nurturing and educating every girl child in the spirit of equality, justice and love.”

It must be acknowledged that since the very inception, the Catholic church has taken into consideration how valuable young girls are and hence, they have been given due recognition. As observed in the remarks made by Kaitholil, Mary, the mother of Christ is the most exemplary role model for young girls across the world, she herself being called to the service of God at a very young age. Mary, being a girl child at the time, shows how pure and strong young girls. It is thereby, salient to note that there is so much more to them than society holds them to be.

Looking at the Catholic community, there are many prominent and significant girl children who have set a great example for the future generations. Revered as the Apostle of Divine Mercy, St. Faustina first felt a religious calling at the age of seven when she attended the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.

Help for the poor

In 1924, she experienced her first vision of Jesus while at a dance with her sister Natalia, in which Jesus instructed her to leave for Warsaw immediately and join a convent. St Katharine together with her stepmother opened up their homes to the poor and distributed food, clothing and rented assistance to those in need. They would also seek out and visit women who were too afraid to be visited in order to give help for the poor.

Wishing to remain a virgin in service to God, Patricia had to flee to Italy when her royal family insisted, she marry. Saint Patricia reminds us that young women’s holy desires should be given voice and honoured. St. Margaret of Louvain was a waitress and maid at an inn where she offered housing even to those who could not pay. She was murdered by thieves when she refused to cover up an evil crime she witnessed. Today, she serves as a model of concern for the poor and justice.

Similar to these virtuous young girls, there are many others who not only made their mark in the Catholic church but showed how remarkable young girls were and could be. The congregation of the Good Shepherd sisters have continued to fight their way to make the voices of young girls be heard across the world. In doing so, they have succeeded in building a family of girl children based on love, faith and hope.