International Day of the Girl and Intersectionality: Forming Inseparable Bonds Between Girls Around the World

Celebrating International Day of the Girl was an amazing experience, especially because the movement and its message has grown to be very important to me.  As we prepared our International Day of the Girl assembly, we read countless texts by feminist writiers and activists, such as  Audre LordeBonnie Thornton Dill, bell hooks, Cherríe Moraga, Lisa Weiner-Mahfuz, and many others.

We met with several women, including Dr. Jessica Ringrose from the Institute of Education in London to discuss her qualitative study of children, young people, and “sexting”,  Christa Calbos to learn about 10×10, a social action campaign that works to educate girls in developing nations, Mandy Van Deven to discuss women’s issues and feminism in India, and Richa Nagar, one of the authors of Playing With Fire.

Through reading these various texts and meeting various speakers in our class, we learned about the ways that women and girls are oppressed in India and around the world.  This movement is both a way of celebrating the girls all around the world who work to overcome the ways that they are oppressed, and a powerful way to spread awareness of the fight for girls’ rights.

This movement strives to tackle issues of poverty, healthcare, education, gender-based violence, including rape, and sex trafficking. I have I’ve never met any of the 77.6 million girls who are currently not enrolled in school, nor have I spoken to any of the 25,000 girls who become child brides each day.  However, our class has learned so much about these girls, and have had so many amazing discussions and interactions with one another and with other feminists about women’s/girl’s issues in India and around the world that I’ve developed a powerful emotional bond with these women and girls.

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LREI’s Feminism class as we prepared to lead the assembly in celebration of International Day of the Girl.

Learning about intersectionality as we’ve learned about the oppression of girls has helped nurture the bond with them.  The theory of intersectionality insists that all forms of oppression, such as homophobia, racism, and sexism, are not independent from one another.  It examines the way that these forms of oppression connect to form a system of oppression.  This interconnectedness of different forms of oppression means, as Audre Lorde states in “There Is No Hierarchy of Oppressions”, that “oppression and the intolerance of difference come in all shapes and sizes and colors and sexualities” and that one “cannot afford the luxury of fighting one form of oppression only.”

In addition, the theory of intersectionality claims that everyone has multiple identities, which consists of different identifiers, such as sexuality, race, gender etc.  Intersectionality is used as a lens to understand how these multiple identities amalgamate to shape the whole person. Understanding the concept of intersectionality has taught me exactly what Bonnie Thornton Dill predicted it would in her Ms. Magazine article, “Intersections.”  It has allowed me to cultivate a deeper understanding of the stories of the girls we’ve come across by “fully incorporating the ideas, experiences, and critical perspectives of previously excluded groups.”

Not only has it inspired me to look at who I am, in regards to all of the different factors that I am made up of, but it has granted me “the distinctive knowledge and perspective of previously ignored groups of women” and has allowed me the opportunity to discuss and be fully aware of the ways that “experience of gender differs by race, class, and other dimensions of inequality.”

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Taking a moment to touch on the issue of girl trafficking in India.

The episodes of Half the Sky that we watched also had an extremely powerful effect on me.  They challenged my emotions and I often found myself in tears at one moment, and then angry in the next at the horrific capacity for cruelty that so many people have.  I was particularly effected by a portion where New York Times journalist Nicholas Kristof says that in places where modern conflicts have ended, “the militias stop shooting other people, but [this kind of] rape, including of young children, continues.”

Kristof’s wife and fellow journalist Sheryl WuDunn goes on to explain that “it’s not so much tolerated as it is just – it’s just people bear it.”  This part made me both angry and sad.  No one should have to be subjected to a world where one has to just learn to live with being violated, and where the rape of women and children is commonplace.  And yet, the shocking reality is that outside of the seemingly safe confines of the bubble that is the U.S., women and girls are subjected to horrible atrocities.

As I was doing research to learn more about the International Day of the Girl and about the ways that women and girls are oppressed throughout the world, I often found myself tearing up.  I had a powerful emotional response when I learned about the hardships of other girls around the world because their stories are absolutely incredible.  The stories of hardships that they’ve faced are truly heartbreaking, and I am amazed by the many girls that have been able to rise up from a complex and abhorrent system of oppression, and with support from amazing people and amazing organizations, have been able to change the course of their lives and “become part of the solution” as was stated in Half the Sky.

Seeing young girls who’ve lived through such hardships smiling and happy and strong is such an incredibly beautiful thing.  These are the women that Audre Lorde addresses in her essay “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House” when she writes:

“Those of us who stand outside the circle of this society’s definition of acceptable women; those of us who have been forged in the crucibles of difference […] know that survival is not an academic skill.  It is learning how to stand alone, unpopular and sometimes reviled, and how to make common cause with those others identified as outside the structures in order to define and seek a world in which we can all flourish.  It is learning how to take our differences and make them strengths.”

All of the strong and amazing women we’ve spoken about, the one’s who’ve “[stood] alone”, and the one’s who’ve been “forged in the crucibles of difference” by systems of oppression have changed the way I see the world.  The women we’ve read about and seen in videos have given me so much knowledge, it’s hard to believe that I once had no idea of what has been happening to women around the world.

These amazing people, such as Somaly Mam in Half the Sky who bravely and selflessly risks her life on a daily basis to save young girls from brothels, are an inspiration.  I won’t ever forget the stories of their strength and determination in the face of systematic oppression.  I hope that someday, when I’m an adult, I’ll be able to inspire someone the way that these women and these stories have inspired me, and to help someone the way that these women help girls every day.

These women, along with every other girl who faces the ways that women are oppressed truly deserve to be celebrated, thanked, and congratulated.  The International Day of the Girl is a day to educate others about women’s and girl’s issues around the world, but it’s also a day to congratulate the fearless women who lead the movement to make the world a better place for everyone.

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Our Feminism class at the end of our assembly.

10 thoughts on “International Day of the Girl and Intersectionality: Forming Inseparable Bonds Between Girls Around the World

  1. I thought you did a great job on this blog, it was both heartfelt and very educational all at the same time. You managed to intertwine a little bit of everything into one very inspirational blog. I enjoyed seeing so many or the readings from our class in your piece, it added a certain level that was nice. Congrats!

  2. I really like the Audre Lorde quote from “The Masters Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House”. I specifically like the line “It is learning how to take our differences and make them strengths” because I think it sums up a lot that we have learned.

  3. Great and detailed post! “As I was doing research to learn more about the International Day of the Girl and about the ways that women and girls are oppressed throughout the world, I often found myself tearing up. I think was so emotional as I heard about the hardships of other girls around the world because their stories are absolutely incredible.” I loved that you brought up your personal feelings towards the videos and stories, because I think we all went through this at some point during our feminism class! I think you struck a great balance between facts and feelings!

  4. I love that you shared that “the movement and its message has grown to be very important to me” I think that introducing your blog post with something so personal doesn’t just grab the reader but also made me personally feel like I already had a connection with you. You also had a very sophisticated way to introduce intersectionality by saying that “This movement strives to tackle issues of poverty, healthcare, education, gender-based violence, including rape, and sex trafficking.” Of course there are many more topics within the movement but you chose some and talked about your connection or lack there of, with girls facing each of them. I was also moved by the section in which you say “ Not only has it inspired me to look at who I am, in regards to all of the different factors that I am made up of, but it has granted me ‘the distinctive knowledge and perspective of previously ignored groups of women’ and has allowed me the opportunity to discuss and be fully aware of the ways that ‘experience of gender differs by race, class, and other dimensions of inequality.’” This to me embodies in words the reason for which we made that assembly, and the reason for which Ileana is teaching this course at the high school level. In addition I was similarly impacted by the Half the Sky documentaries and treasured how you described and brought to life, (through words) what a huge impact they had on you.

  5. I like that you reflected on the ideals that were instilled with you because of intersectionality. I love how you then went on to say “in regards to all different factors that I am made up of”, this highlights every part of your characteristics and your identity all through intersectionality. There couldn’t be a better way to utilize intersectionality while connecting it back to yourself. Through it all you brought it back to the importance of International Day of the Girl by using you as a tool for reflection much like our guest speaker did on Friday. This was a strategy that was very striking to me because it gets across multiple points. First, the more straightforward, it is a useful way of describing a situation and in your case the importance of International Day of the Girl. In addition, it also hits home even harder because people reading this now have an idea of your experience through it which helps solidify this message. To know someone’s experience breeds understanding. Also it humanizes the point and destroys the over-seas distance people tend to feel when they hear of problems in other countries.

  6. I thought it was great how you were able to reflect on yourself and dig deep into finding out your true identity. It is great how passionate you are on the issues of girl’s (lack of) education because it really is an important cause for people in our country to be recognizing. I was also really inspired by the Half the Sky videos because of how powerful the stories were and realizing that the girls in the film were people who will never experience privileged childhoods and schools, and for me growing up in such terrible conditions is unimaginable.

  7. I thought you did a great job writing this piece! It makes me happy that you really care about the issues that you talked about and that you wish to inspire people about these issues when you grow older. Just like you, I felt an incredible bond between the people that we studied about that we never even met and I think it’s crazy! But through reading texts and watching documentaries about these oppressed girls across the globe helped build for me a strong emotional bond to them. This bond is strong enough that I am willing to help these girls in any way that I can so that they can get educated, safe, and have better lives. Great piece and I hope that you will build an even “better” bond with these girls someday. Keep going!

  8. You really showed me the emotion and the bond you built with these topics, the situation, and the people. You really showcased its importance, not only to yourself, but to society. I really love that you spoke about intersectionality and how all forms of oppression connect to “form a system of oppression” and that along with Bonnie Thornton Dill’s Ms. Magazine article, “Intersections,” you begun to look towards yourself and explorer your own experience in relation to all the woman we learn about and possibly even discover ways in which you are oppressed that you had no idea even existed. I found myself in that position on various occasions and it is troubling to find out what chains are holding you down but it is also liberates me and encourages me to fight against it. I completely agree with you on the Half the Sky videos because I was very depressed after watching those 4 hours of heartwarming stories from around the world but it can honestly say that it was life-changing. I feel like Half the Sky was the necessary hard truth that had to be thrown straight at me. You pointed out that you felt that your emotions were being challenged, you found yourself in tears, and you were also angry and I think that was the reaction that the directors of Half the Sky wanted to get out of us. You end your post with hope by talking about the inspiration you gained from great woman such as Somaly Mam. I would say that I also hope you can be the person that inspires everyone, but thats silly because I know that you will be an inspiration and you will be the person the others can look up to and know that someone cares. I really loved your post and keep moving forward.

  9. A wonderful post! I love the way you mention all of the speakers, texts, videos, and films we have engaged in throughout this unit leading up to our IDG assembly. It is clear that you have had a powerful experience and that you will continue to be committed to issues of global girls’ education. I’m particularly impressed with the way you easily move between analysis of texts and statistics and personal response to the issues we have raised in the class. I’m looking forward to reading more of your posts!

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