The International Day of the Girl Assembly at Elisabeth Irwin High School was a tremendous success. My role during this assembly was to read some facts and statistics about girls’ education in India. I was proud to present this information because we have been learning about these issues in my high school feminism course. I also found some of my statistics to be very powerful and shocking, such as how India has the world’s largest child population at around 400 million, and such a large percentage of this 400 million are girls who do not have an opportunity for education.
I found it shocking how a country with such a large population has millions of young people in complete poverty. I felt that these stats were very gripping and could really make the audience think of just how privileged we are to be living in New York and attending a private school. It was also really cool to see all of the familiar faces in the audience and to know that they are all experiencing the same revelation about the lack of education in the world as I did when I first started learning about all of the stories and statistics. The audience seemed to be engaged and into every video, statistical reading, and excerpt from our intersectionality essays.
What initially spoke to me the most was reading the chapters from Playing With Fire by Richa Nagar. The stories from this book were incredibly raw and revealing of the true issues that girls face in India, and it really opened my eyes to how severe the situation is. It opened my eyes to how much oppression there is in India and how large a role the caste system plays.
I always thought of castes as more traditional and old-fashioned forms of social hierarchy in India, but after reading Playing With Fire, it is obvious that caste oppression is very prevalent in modern day India. Nagar writes, “Members of the upper castes found it unbearable that a Dalit family could also see the dream of seeking education. They taunted ‘Why does this Paasi man waste so much money on his children’s schooling?’….His sons will become laborers when they grow up. His daughters will cut grass and wash and clean for others. It would be more appropriate for him to teach them skills that they can use later!”It was hard for me to read about how the poorer castes are scoffed at when they want to become something in life.
I was also captivated by some of the stories that were in the Half the Sky PBS documentary. I found it amazing how they were able to document stories from different girls from countries around the world and tie them all together into a common cause. Some of the stories really made me put my own life into perspective and made me realize how fortunate I am to have the life that I do. One of the girls in Half the Sky from Sierra Leone really made realize this when she talked about all the struggles of her life and how all she wanted to do was to become a doctor. I have always known that the U.S. is a more democratic place where everyone is supposed to have a shot at success, but the Half the Sky stories made me realize how limited the opportunities for success are in many countries across the globe.
I am really excited to start getting in contact with the Shri Shikshayatan School in Kolkata, India. I think it is going to be an incredible experience to learn and share what both of our school and theirs have studied about the International Day of the Girl. I am eager to learn about what their stories are, and I am sure they are anxious to learn about what life in the U.S. is like. Between being able to connect with this Indian school and being a part of an awareness assembly that was taking place around the world, I felt like I was a part of something much larger. It did not feel like it was just me and my feminist classmates up on stage talking; it felt like we were part of the entire movement.
Overall, I have been thrilled to be taking part in the International Day of the Girl. I have always felt obligated to raise my awareness on world issues and the different forms of poverty and oppression that there are in the world, but I never got into doing this until now. All of the shocking statistics and stories from different areas of the world have raised my awareness and helped me realize how large the issues with girl’s education really are. I want to keep learning about these issues, and I want to keep discovering the ways in which I can help solve them.