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Did you know that 11 October 2012 marked the first ever International Day of the Girl Child? It was a global celebration of adolescent girls and overdue recognition that if we unlock their potential, we can build a healthier, more just and prosperous world.

The United Nations chose child marriage as the theme for Day of the Girl 2012. Every year, 10 million girls a year are married as children, denying them their rights to education, to health and to live in safety and security.

To celebrate International Day of the Girl on 11 October, Girls Not Brides hosted an online discussion where experts and activists on child marriage answered your questions.

Participants included Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland and member of The Elders, Christy Turlington Burns, supermodel and founder of Every Mother Counts, Anju Malhotra, Principal Gender and Rights Advisor at UNICEF, and Muhammed Shahzad Khan, a youth activist from Pakistan.

Participants in the Girls Not Brides Day of the Girl Google+ Hangout

Mary Robinson - The Elders

Mary Robinson Photo credit: The Elders

Mary Robinson, The Elders, @TheElders

Mary Robinson was the first woman President of Ireland and is a former United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights.

Mary Robinson is also a member of The Elders, a group of independent leaders using their collective experience and influence for peace, justice and human rights worldwide.

In 2011 The Elders founded Girls Not Brides: The Global Partnership to End Child Marriage.

Mary Robinson and her fellow Elders have since visited Ethiopia and India to meet adolescent girls and boys determined to end child marriage.

Christy Turlington Burns - Every Mother Counts

Christy Turlington Burns Photo credit: Every Mother Counts

Christy Turlington Burns, Every Mother Counts, @CTurlington and @EveryMomCounts

With nearly thirty years at the forefront of the fashion industry, having graced every magazine cover from Vogue to Time, Christy Turlington Burns has established a diverse career as a model, writer, entrepreneur, spokesperson, advocate, and filmmaker.

In 2010, she completed and debuted her documentary film, NO WOMAN, NO CRY, about the global state of maternal health.

Concurrent with the debut of her documentary, Christy launched Every Mother Counts, an action and mobilisation campaign designed to educate and support maternal, newborn and child health.

Dr. Anju Malhotra - Unicef

Dr. Anju Malhotra Photo credit: UNICEF

Anju Malhotra, UNICEF, @UNICEF

Dr. Anju Malhotra is Principal Adviser, Gender and Rights, at UNICEF where her work helps children from diverse backgrounds overcome overcome the barriers to well-being and rights presented by gender discrimination and human rights violations. Her extensive research portfolio focuses on issues such as child marriage, girls’ education, innovation and women’s empowerment, and adolescent transition to adulthood, among others.

Prior to this, Dr. Malhotra worked for the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) working to maximise the potential of adolescent girls and developing viable frameworks and metrics for measuring women’s and girls’ empowerment. She is currently serving as a member of the Girls Not Brides Advisory Committee.

Muhammed Shahzad Khan - Friends of UNFPA

Muhammed Shahzad Khan Photo credit: Friends of UNFPA

Muhammad Shahzad Khan, Chanan Development Association, Pakistan, @FriendsofUNFPA

Muhammad, 27, hails from a village in Bahawalpur, Pakistan. When he was 12 years old, village elders told his father to marry his teenage sister to a 50-year-old man. Muhammad began a hunger strike to protest the marriage and his family soon joined him. The wedding was called off but the family had to leave the village and settle in Lahore. He has since set up Chanan Development Association, a non-profit organisation aimed at empowering young people in Pakistan.

The Friends of UNFPA, an organisation that mobilises funds and action for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), recognised Shahzad’s important contributions in promoting women’s and youth rights by honouring him with the 2012 Award for the Health and Dignity of Women and Girls in a ceremony in New York on Thursday.