As a fellow classmate of mine so eloquently stated during our International Day of the Girl assembly: “International Day of the Girl is a movement started by various girl’s empowerment organizations that advocate for girls rights all over the world in relation to issues of poverty, low access to healthcare and education, as well as gender-based violence such as rape, sex trafficking, and domestic violence.”
Our assembly intended to inform and inspire our audience so that they could learn about the various efforts to empower girls around the world. For a series of weeks, we have been studying about these issues and their relationship to intersectionality. We have also learned about how the theory of intersectionality also relates to our own identities.
Our class has been discussing readings by Audre Lorde, Michelle Goldberg, Lisa Weiner-Mahfuz, Cherríe Moraga, bell hooks, Dr. Jessica Ringrose and other powerful feminists. These women gave us the language and information needed to have a small wealth of knowledge.
We also watched various inspiring videos, and one documentary that stood out significantly was Half The Sky, which was based on a book by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn about the oppression and strife of girls around the world. These were the sources of information that enlightened our class about how vital a girls’ life is to the world.
Personally, I came to understand things that I couldn’t have imagined in my worst nightmares and I found it important that we bring these realities to light. One of the more shocking pieces of information came from Half the Sky. For example, the way the lack of a girl’s education made such an enormous impact on her life and the lives of others around her. Without an education, a girl falls into the cycle of her mother and her mother before her.
To be stuck in a cycle that is so unbreakable is appalling to me. I could not even begin to imagine not having access to proper education and not being given the chance to present what I have to offer to the world. Girls with tremendous potential end up getting raped or abused or raising a large family at a young age or used for sex.
There were parts of Half the Sky, such as hearing about a 3-year-old getting raped that made me feel as though there was some insidious truth eating at my sanity. It made me want to do something about it and it motivated our class to find the words to spread the word. We found the courage to speak up and that is why I think that the International Day of the Girl is so tremendously important: because we were hoping to pull a new consciousness and understanding out of a hideous reality.
At the core of this assembly was the way every issue affected another. We shared our understanding of intersectionality as a significant component to our assembly on International Day of the Girl. For us to understand the struggles of a girl on another continent we had to understand our own struggles and why we were connected to them.
Defining intersectionality was important to me because, I have always felt a strong personal connection to overlapping oppressions. I’ve been very aware of the way my identity never belonged in a box. Last year I completed a 2-trimester-long honors project exploring race and intersectionality and the way multiple oppressions overlap.
I have come to a deeper understanding in understanding what Audre Lorde meant when she said that she was black, a feminist, and a lesbian. Upon studying the famous Lorde, I began to understand what it really meant to feel the depth of oppression and the way it could inhibit my confidence. She so brilliantly said in her essay “There is No Hierarchy of Oppressions,” the following: “I have learned that oppression and the intolerance of difference come in all shapes and sizes and colors and sexualities…there is no hierarchy of oppression.”
I realized that I shouldn’t be ashamed of one part of me more than another, or any part of myself for that matter. I began to own up to the way I could not be shaped by others’ hands to fit into a mold. I chose to give my definition of intersectionality because I knew that I had more than understood it personally by wearing its shoes and breathing its air.
Intersectionality enriched my understanding of myself and I thought that it could bring the audience closer to understanding how education connects to a girl’s race, social standing, sexuality, religion and family.
I felt as though reading some of our stories and narratives was actually a large part of our effort to connect to the rest of the world on International Day of the Girl. I thought classmates like Miral and Olivia did an amazing job and I really appreciated the different perspectives. I liked that fact that the speakers both realized their privilege and understood their disadvantages, whatever they may be. They allowed the audience to “look at women’s lives through these multiple lenses” through intersectionality as Bonnie Thornton Dill writes.
They served as an effective way to connect our personal experience with the experiences of other girls around the world. We didn’t just give the audience facts about girls, where they wouldn’t remember the numbers later. Reading the narratives gave the assembly a certain empathy that may not have otherwise been attained. These narratives caused the audience to really delve into the everyday aspects of oppression. Because these narratives were about intersectionality, they touched base on a lot of different issues that might’ve helped the audience connect to girls on the other side of the world.
I feel as though our assembly really tied together everything we learned and the things we have been discussing in class. What we learned about India and the maltreatment of girls around the world was, at first, just shocking information: news to our ears. In a short period of time, though, we were able to discuss a large range of international issues such as infanticide, forced marriage, lack of education, sex slavery and trafficking, and much more. These were all striking topics and it almost seemed overwhelming.
But by working together we were able to streamline all these issues together and take action. Audre Lorde always talked about how we need to speak up and the way we must share our perspectives. But what we did was take girls’ perspectives around the world and create a cause for action and a fight for awareness. Sometimes, when we acquire knowledge, we tend to hold it in or let it eat away at our consciousness; chomping at the back of our minds. We let it rot away and we don’t do anything about it because we figure that one person is not good enough or that it is too hard to speak up and make others aware.
However, International Day of the Girl is all about bringing the girls of the world together in an effort to make the world aware of the position that society puts girls in. We struggle everyday to have a chance to accomplish our dreams. This assembly was successful because it helped raise awareness for a cause that affects every single person on an earth that spins around men. This is precisely the reason so many organizations such as Girl Effect and 10×10 have banded together to educate and empower girls around the world who never get to know what female empowerment is or that it even exists.