What's being called the first Insta-documentary is galvanizing international efforts against some of the darkest human rights abuses girls face every day.
Girl Summit, a global conference taking place Tuesday in London and co-hosted by U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron and UNICEF, has created the short documentary, "Freedom Is..." from hundreds of Instagram submissions sent from around the world. The footage -- which features users' responses to the simple question, "What does freedom mean to you?" -- is honoring the rights of girls everywhere to live free of violence and discrimination, particularly when it comes to the abuses of female genital mutilation (FGM) and child, early and forced marriage.
Female genital mutilation: A UNICEF study suggests at least 30 million girls will be at risk of FGM over the next decade. The painful procedure, which is considered essential for marriage in some cultures (predominantly in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia) is defined as the intentional alteration to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons by the World Heath Organization. The procedure, which has no health benefits and can cause a wide range of medical complications, is typically carried out on young girls sometime between infancy and age 15.
Child, early and forced marriage: According to a 2011 report by UNICEF, one in three girls in the developing world is married by the age of 18. These girls are more likely to live in poverty throughout their lives and are at an increased risk of domestic violence, sexual abuse and marital rape. The World Health Organization reported last year that Niger was the worst-offending country in the world in terms of child marriage, with 75 percent of girls forced to wed during adolescence. Beyond physical and psychological ramifications, child marriage effectively ends a girl's access to education and vocational or life skills.
“It’s fantastic to see so many people coming together to show their support for girls," Justine Greening, the U.K.'s international development secretary, said in a press release regarding the event. "There are too many girls around the world who are being denied the freedom to control their bodies and their futures."
Girl Summit has garnered far-reaching support from dozens of national governments and organizations from around the world, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Save the Children and Oxfam. Anyone can contribute to the summit's mission by pledging support on social media.
To take the pledge supporting young women everywhere, visit the Girl Summit website.