Which day do you remember? Melbourne Cup Day Vs The International Day of The Girl Child
In my hometown of Melbourne, November 5th was the day that a horse race stopped our nation. Melbourne Cup Day is the glamour social event of the year to a sport-obsessed city and is a public holiday. Yes, we Melbournians, and probably most Australians, had a day off from our toils so we could watch some horses run around a park for something like three minutes and gamble $350 million on the result.
That’s enough money to pay the annual wages of about 2500 registered nurses in our understaffed hospitals or buy 300 or so nice new 812 Ferraris if you’re fortunate enough to run an oil-rich desert kingdom somewhere.
“It’s un-Australian not to take Melbourne Cup day off, isn’t it?” Melbourne’s then Lord Mayor Robert Doyle told us as he attended the event in 2017.
Now, I’m not going to preach about choices people make about how to spend their time or their money; I’ve attended the Melbourne Cup before and the occasion was a glittering carnival of fun and excitement and who can doubt the fashion finery of Melbourne’s glitterati, and the racehorses themselves are some of the most magnificent creatures ever to walk the earth.
There is another day, just three weeks before Melbourne Cup Day. It’s called “The International Day of The Girl Child” and its date is October 11th. It passed by almost un-noticed in Australia, our lucky homeland. And it should not have.
There are 1.1 billion girls in the world, and every ten minutes, somewhere in the world, one of these precious young girls dies as a result of violence. As well, these young girls are victims of sexual and physical violence, child marriage, exploitation and trafficking that affects their lives forever. Young girls in conflict zones are 90% more likely to be out of school when compared to girls in conflict-free countries, damaging their future prospects for work and financial independence as adults.
On this day however, across the world, empowered girls are celebrating their voices and fighting for their rights and protection. They are working to end the violence against themselves, to have their rights recognised, and to build peaceful communities in which to live safely.
In the nearly 25 years since the United Nations declared this day the “Day of the Girl Child”, more girls are moving from dreaming to achieving. More girls today are attending and completing school, fewer are getting married or becoming mothers while still children, and more are gaining the skills they need to excel in the future world of work. There are still grotesque tragedies happening to these children which confronts our humanity, including being trafficked for sex, which I want to add my own voice and efforts to fighting.
I wonder if just a small part of the $350 million that we are prepared to lose on a horse race might be better invested in these children – they are the postcards of our humanity that we post into a future we will never see.