Friday, October 11, 2013 marked the second annual International Day of the Girl. Many times, the most privileged people do not think about issues that do not pertain directly to themselves. International Day of the Girl is important because it gives everyone a chance to reflect on the inequalities faced by girls around the world.
In our feminism class, we took Day of the Girl a step farther and made it the week of the girl. During that important week, our class either watched or read something related to girls’ around the world everyday.
For example, we watched the speech Malala Yousafzai delivered at the United Nations on her 16th birthday this past summer. While I had heard about Malala before, I had never heard her speech. As soon as she started speaking, I was amazed. Her speech was incredibly moving.
Malala believes that the “terrorists thought that they would change our aims and stop our ambitions but nothing changed in my life except this: weakness, fear, and hopelessness died. Strength, power, and courage was born. I am the same Malala. My ambitions are the same. My hopes are the same. My dreams are the same.”
Even after being shot by the Taliban, Malala’s strength, courage, and empowerment have not been stifled. In fact, they have been reinforced. She feels even more empowered to make a changes for girls’ education in her community and communities around the world.
As the week progressed, our feminism class hosted an International Day of the Girl assembly for our school. Many people volunteered to read their personal intersectionality pieces. As I stared into the crowd, there were so many eyes on me. Before reading my piece, I was jittery and fearful that I would be judged for my words. As the assembly was about to begin, I remembered a quote by Audre Lorde:
the transformation of silence into language and action is an act of self-revelation.
I realized that in order to understand myself, I needed to break my silence. Lorde’s quote empowered me to share my story. As I heard my peers begin to read their personal stories, I began to realize something: while I could not directly relate to all of their stories, it felt like there was a continuous string that held all of our stories together. I became excited to share my story and add my segment to the string. Ultimately, I did read my piece without any issues. Once I finished, I felt a rush of overwhelming enjoyment and happiness. I was proud that I did not allow my fear to keep my voice silenced.
Later that week, we were given a sheet of statistics. The statistics were from Girl Rising, which according to is “a film, a movement, and now a future.” Girl Rising strives to raise awareness about girls’ education world wide. The statistics were jaw dropping. One of the statistics that most stuck out to me was:
14 million girls under 18 will be married this year; 38 thousand today; 13 girls in the last 30 seconds.
I was shocked. That meant that by the end of my 50 minute class period, 1300 girls had gotten married! I have always felt a bit naive and blinded by Western culture, but after reading these statistics, I felt even more empowered to make changes in my community and worldwide.
We also watched Malala on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. At this point, I felt like I should not have been surprised after hearing the UN speech, but once again I was. Every time I hear Malala speak, I am moved. When Stewart asked Malala about the Taliban, she said she would tell herself:
Malala, just take a shoe and hit him, but then I said if you hit a Talib with your shoe then there would be no difference between you and the Talib. You must not treat others with that much cruelty . . . but through peace and through dialogue and through education. Then I would tell him: how important education is and that I even want education for your children as well. That is what I wanted to tell you, now do what you want.
Malala’s selflessness left me speechless. Apparently, I was not the only one. Even Jon Stewart was left speechless!
Lastly, on Friday, October 11, 2013, the actual date of International Day of the Girl, my classmates and I traveled to the United Nations to attend the Day of the Girl Summit. We, along with over 500 other people, watched a panel of girls speak about issues of education, health care, immigration, and human rights.
As we carefully listened to each panelist, there was an overwhelming amount of emotion in the room. When Diana, a 16 year old girl from Mexico spoke about immigration, there was an inspiring amount of support for her message.
Diana started her speech stating, “My name is Diana, I am undocumented, unafraid, and unapologetic.” As soon as she finished the first line of her speech, there was a terrific amount of loud cheering and clapping. At the end of her speech, she received a standing ovation.
It was amazing to see all of these girls from different parts of the world make speeches. While I was watching the speeches, I could not help but think about how I felt reading my intersectionality piece during our assembly at school. Just like all of the pieces read in our school assembly, all of the stories and speeches read at the Summit were connected. Each girl had very unique experiences, but all of their stories almost always came back to education and human rights.
I was impressed by how eloquent and well spoken each of the girl’s speeches were. I am extremely grateful that I was able to attend such an empowering event. Perhaps Diana said it the best: “We aren’t demanding a privilege, we are demanding a right!”