Week of the Girl: One Boy’s Reflection on Becoming Inspired by International Day of the Girl

Reading my intersectionality piece at our International Day of the Girl assembly (photo credit: Lexie Clinton).
Reading my intersectionality piece at our International Day of the Girl assembly (photo
credit: Lexie Clinton).

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!

My Classmates and I at the United Nations for International Day of the Girl Credit: Ileana Jiménez
At the Day of the Girl Summit at the United Nations with my feminism class
(photo credit: Ileana Jiménez)

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!”

16 thoughts on “Week of the Girl: One Boy’s Reflection on Becoming Inspired by International Day of the Girl

  1. It is great how you realize that in order to understand yourself, you need to break your silence. It is inspiring that you “did not allow [your] fear to keep [your] voice silenced” and show how Audre Lorde’s quote led you to that realization. Diana’s quote about demanding a right is also very powerful and is something that inspires me and I know inspires others or has the ability to do so.

  2. Hey Russell, great post! I was really inspired at your personal journey in your transformation of silence. We as collective members of society at one point or another have experienced or witnessed forms of oppression and silence no matter how much privilege we might have. I think that a critical realization for you as a boy in this society looking at the world in a lens of feminism is that “in order to understand [yourself], [you] needed to break [your] silence” instead of hiding your own insecurities out of fear.

  3. I loved how you said we made IDG into the Week of the Girl. I was also very nervous during the IDG assembly but somethings that helped me is, like you said Audre Lorde’s quote that we keep coming back to, and also how what we were teaching and telling the school was important. It was important for our school to hear all of our stories along with Malala’s.

  4. You really gave the statistic of “13 girls under the age of 18, will get married under 30 seconds” a whole new understanding for me when you compared it to 1500 girls in one class period!! It’s hard to wrap my mind around, especially since I once believed that getting married very young was no longer popular throughout the world. But it is still happening to so many girls. Unlike in the 16th century, in which education wasn’t available to many people today it is still not an option for so many girls.

  5. I think your description of standing up at the IDG assembly is interesting because I think your fear of being “judged for [your] words” is something we all experience. I also like how after you describe how rewarding it was to share because it proves that silence really doesn’t help anyone and speaking up is empowering. Also your quote from Malala on the Daily Show is amazing. I’ve obviously heard it before but reading it again I was taken aback by her, like you said, “selflessness.” Really strong piece!

  6. Fantastic post. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, everything we live through always comes back to perspective. I think you have one of the most interesting perspectives there is and I love how your piece was intertwined with that. You made such a great point about breaking the silence and that really connected with me because there are many people out there who have yet to understand the world because they have yet to understand themselves and the only way they can achieve that is by as you said breaking the silence and not being afraid of being judged for who you are and what you have to say.

  7. Audre Lorde’s quote, “the transformation of silence into language and action is an act of self revelation” also resonates with me. I found it interesting how this quote empowered you to get up and present your piece to the school. I think through this process, you have found a new sense of self confidence and voice. It’s amazing to see how much you have grown.

  8. I think it is amazing the progress you have made in terms of your confidence and opening up about your story. I’ve seen you grow so much and really take hold of your identity. I find it very interesting that through feminism, something normally associated with a “butch lesbian” you, an Asian Jewish boy found your voice. ❤

  9. I find it very interesting that you found such a strong connection with Malala, admiring her for the incentive that she gave you to make this “week” of the girl much more personal! She has an incredibly strong morality and integrity, as you highlighted in the quote from her speech at the United Nations; it’s unbelievable to think that she could be a student, just like us, as she talks with such strength.

    Like her, we’re learning to define ourselves more strongly and differently. Malala has sure “exposed” us further to this world of differences and statistics that I couldn’t have imagined; your example was simple, but very effective and, honestly, quite surprising, as I have experienced them through the same Western lenses as you. In your piece, I really liked how you explained your own connection to this week and to the works of other students; the environment of our own class is stimulating, surprising and revealing, as to the fact that we truly “aren’t demanding a privilege”, but a right, and I think this may be the link of all of our experiences. Through many sources, we’re developing our perspectives further, and they may have elements in common; we’re learning more about our own potential. Hearing all of these new voices may be a further incentive to start change in your community and worldwide.

  10. As Lorde’s quote inspired you to share your story, it did the same for me. Also, it’s really surprising that by the end of class, about 1300 girls had been married even though our class had gone through the statistics together. I also really like how you shared your personal experience of sharing your intersectionality essay to the whole school. Great post!

  11. I like how Audre Lorde’s quote “the transformation of silence into language and action is an act of self-revelation” motivated you to speak up in the assembly. I was as nervous as you were because I was afraid of people judging me. After reading in front of the whole school, I did feel empowered just like you. Also, I agree with you when you say Malala is empowering. Especially she is really empowering because she is our age fighting for change.

  12. Russel, I think that for many people, breaking their own silence is very hard however once it is done, it is a very powerful and productive way to make a difference. When you wrote, “I realized that in order to understand myself, I needed to break my silence,” I felt very proud of you because I know that it is not easy. Also, the statistic that you used ” by the end of my 50 minute class period, 1300 girls had gotten married!” shocked me and made it very real to me. This is an issue that should not be taken lightly.

  13. I love that you said our stories are held together by a continuous string. A string that extends from you to every other person and their stories. And only by sharing these stories do we as people grow closer and stronger. “I realized that in order to understand myself, I needed to break my silence.” These words served as encouragement for me. I too struggle with speaking up very often. I am just one of many that your words will touch. To think this all started with a Feminism class.

  14. It is hard to face some of the facts you point out in your post. I don’t think any human can look at the list of facts, and say that they do not want to do anything about it. When you put in the video of Malala, it gives the reader of the post a great example of turning silence into action. I like how you describe the emotion in the room at the UN as readers read. That is a very similar feeling I shared with many during the international day of the girl assembly held at LREI.

  15. I agree with you about how “the most privileged people do not think about issues that do not pertain directly to themselves.” Feminism, and in particular International Day of the Girl, have helped me realize that even though certain issues may not seem relevant in my life, I still have a responsibility to work towards a better world for everyone, whether or not we face the same types of injustices or inequalities. I can also relate to your line, “I realized that in order to understand myself, I needed to break my silence.” Both writing and sharing my story were certainly acts of “self-revelation,” which was very rewarding and empowering. I really love Diana’s quote “We aren’t demanding a privilege, we are demanding a right!” and I think it perfectly expresses why it is so important to raise awareness and promote change so that no human being is denied their human rights.

  16. Your piece spoke to me especially when you said “the most privileged people do not think about issues that do not pertain directly to themselves.” This class and all that we have learned have helped me realize that even though specific issues are not the same as mine they are still happening and whether I like it or not they affect me and the people around me. But most importantly it is my duty to spread their stories and to stop the injustice. Sharing my story in front of everyone transformed the words on my page into words and made them real to everyone around me and to most importantly me. I woke up my own issues that I had silenced.

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