We are Not Alone: Educating Girls, Educating Myself

Here I am reading a personal story during our feminism class assembly on International Day of the Girl (photo credit: Lexie Clinton).

Did you know  that 66 million girls are out of school globally? Did you know that the number one cause of death for girls aged 15-19 is childbirth? Did you know that educated mothers are more than twice as likely to send their children to school? Did you know that there are 33 million girls fewer girls than boys in primary schools?

Well, if you didn’t know all of that, now you do. How do you feel?

Friday October 11, 2013 marked the second International Day of the Girl  recognizing and advocating for the rights of girls, and the challenges we face.

In celebration of the International Day of the Girl, my high school feminism class led by Feminist Teacher, Ileana Jiménez, had an assembly sharing our own personal stories of race, class, and gender; we also raised awareness of girls and women all over the world. Our stories were about how we live along the intersections; intersectionality is the union of all the forces of oppression and the way in which they impact our lives.In addition to our own personal stories, we also dedicated our assembly to Malala Yousafzai. On October 9, 2012, Malala Yousafzai was shot on the left side of her face by the Taliban in Pakistan. The reason why she was shot was because of her activism on behalf of education for girls and women.

In Malala’s interview here on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart she says, “Why don’t I raise my voice? Why don’t we speak up for our rights?” This was so empowering because we’re both the same age and if she can talk to the whole world about her story with the Taliban still threatening her then why couldn’t I?

Then I got on stage, and the first thing I thought was, Oh crap. I didn’t even want to read out loud to the class and now I was going to read out loud to my school? This was my story; it was something I didn’t want to share with anyone because I felt like I would’ve been giving a part of myself away.

However, I started reading and a small voice in the back of my head said, You are not alone. I kept reading but I felt everyone’s eyes looking at me on my right and I glimpsed at the eyes looking at me on my left. You are not alone. I looked into the audience and saw that even though some were bored, they were still listening.

Then I thought about all of the girls over the world who are putting themselves out there because they want to make a difference and I kept thinking, You are not alone. I looked up at the projected image and I saw the quote by Audre Lorde, “the transformation of silence into language and action is an act of self-revelation”  and I knew right then and there that I was not alone.

I was with girls all across the world standing up.

Here I am with my feminist classmates at the UN for International Day of the Girl (photo credit: Ileana Jiménez).
Here I am with my feminist classmates at the UN for International Day of the Girl. I am on the far left (photo credit: Ileana Jiménez).

On Friday October 11, 2013, my feminism class went to the UN to the Girls Speak Out event in which girls from all over the world were sharing their experiences and their work.

Girls from the ages of 13-17 from Mozambique, Algeria, Guatemala, Burkina Faso, and the U.S. were speaking about their stories and their call to action. It was so incredible to me because this was the first time that I was seeing girls in this large of a number who wanted to come together and make a difference.

There was such a profound sense of spirit, joy, and action; I’ve never felt anything like that before. I felt such a surge of happiness and hope knowing that the people in the room actually wanted to make a difference.

Malika, a 14 year old girl from Burkina Faso, West Africa realized that a major reason for girls not continuing their education is because the school’s distance from home was too much. Her friend had to walk 2-3 hours a day just to get to school, and then 2-3 hours a day to get back. As a result, Malika raised funds to provide 60 bikes to 60 girls so they could continue their education. She was the first girl to speak, and I was already inspired. I began to think of what I could do.

As many speakers were talking, I felt hopeful, but most of all, I felt lucky. I thought about all of the girls around the world who cannot go to school because of reasons such as needing to take care of family members, long distance commutes, or not having sanitary bathrooms. As explained in the Girl Effect video , not having an education leads to girls being forced off into marriage by the age of 12, getting pregnant by 15 or perhaps even having to sell her body to survive.

Then I think to myself, What kind of a world do we live in? Why does this need to happen? Why are people so afraid of sending a girl to school? If a girl is sent to school, if she is educated, then she will succeed; she will break free from the shackles that hold her down and she will rise and this is exactly what needs to happen. We need to help girls around the world break free from the oppressions of society and rise, and if it’s scary to go against the trend of ignoring everything, there’s no need to worry.

Because  . . .


16 thoughts on “We are Not Alone: Educating Girls, Educating Myself

  1. The description of your feeling while presenting in front of the school was almost like a “break-through moment.” I wish your phrase of “I am not alone,” whisked through my head as I began to speak at the assembly because I’m sure it would have helped me and every other student in the class that day. Though it may seem obvious, at moments one really does need to be reminded that as women, we all have similar stories. This why it is so important to share them, to figure out the patterns as the first step to finding out the root to why these problems that are re-occurring.

  2. I like how you start your piece with a few statistics because they really captured my attention and made me want to know what you had to say about them. I was also really intrigued by the way you described your experience reading at the IDG assembly because it seems like the “voice” was your confidence booster in a way and maybe it won’t be so nerve racking to stand up next time. This whole class, for me at least, has been a kind of awakening to the realization, that you articulated so well, that we are not alone.

  3. To answer your question about how I feel when I hear those statistics, I feel incredibly fortunate and incredibly sad because there is SO much to know and there are so many women who are not getting the opportunities to learn about our incredible world. I’ve only recently started connecting with people through our amazing internet (well, about a year), but it is so incredible to see what’s happening, like hearing about your trip and how wonderful it was for all of those young women to connect! I have wished for years I could be more involved with the feminist movement and continue to hope I can through my writing. I have some very different perspectives, but, in short, I want women to be able to have it all. I’ve managed to do it with my work and kids, and I want to share how I’ve done it and what amazing gifts I’ve experienced in the process. My life has been nothing like I ever imagined it would be. You’re very lucky to be where you are and I will look forward to hearing more!

  4. I love how you keep referring back to “you are not alone.” This idea is strongly emphasized and is connected through different perspectives. It captures the idea that girls all around the world are going through very similar problems and/or that girls all over are interested in making similar types of change and are passionate in similar ways.

  5. I really loved how you started your post. In my post I did something similar and although you didn’t state it I know that the reason you put those statistics there was to in some way wake people up. I also really enjoyed how this post was not only about the larger sense of standing up and speaking out but also on the more immediate sense of how you felt speaking publicly. Both were really well connected in your post and I think that is what made it reach out to me so much.

  6. I am so glad that you had the opportunity to read your piece at the assembly. Although scary at first, you were able to stand up with the class and girls around the world and you were not alone! I think we were all at least a little bit nervous before and during the assembly. As we shared our stories, we were able to find the similarities between them and forget what divided us. At the UN, the girls were also able to share their stories and experiences. Together, we made connections between the girls on the podium and the people in our class. I hope that one day many of us will be able to stand up on a podium and share our stories with a larger group of people!

  7. I like how reflective you are. I think it’s very important to learn new information and to relate it back to yourself. To just really sit back and ask, “How does/doesn’t this effect me and what can I do about it?” I can tell from listening to you in class that you are very passionate on Feminism ideology and woman’s rights. it’s brilliant to see you moved by the misfortunes of women.

  8. I really liked how you started your piece but presenting cold hard facts. No emotions or thoughts but fact. I think that was powerful. It was a slap in the face even though, I had already know these facts, it hit me all over again. I liked that you asked the reader a question, “how do you feel?”, because it is bringing it home.It places these feminist issues in their brains and their hearts. It holds the reader accountable. I agree with your statement, ” you are not alone.” I think it is important that girls feel as though they are in a sisterhood, power is there.

  9. I was engaged by the iteration of the phrase “you’re not alone”, in all of the different contests; I feel that, each time, you’re developing a new, deeper meaning. It appears first with your connection with Malala and, later, with the activists of the Girls Speak Out. Both, in different moment, communicated you a form of security and encouragement that our class alone could not give you. The description of the involvement that you immediately felt in the movement, a “profound sense of spirit, joy, and action” is very effective and rather impressive. Finding one’s voice is an act of self-revelation; the first encounter with the philosophy of feminism seems to have had a similar meaning to you, as it unlocked strength and an encouragement from within.

  10. I like how throughout your blog post you emphasize “you are not alone.” When we read our pieces during the assembly, I did not feel alone because we were all on the stage together. Being together on the stage made me feel like we were a community and in this together. Also, I like how you were not sure why you were not taking action like Malala who is being threaten by the Talaban. It is interesting how we were afraid to speak up in our school and Malala is not even with a gun to her face. Being apart of the feminism class has made me strengthen my confidence and just like you, realize that “we are not alone.”

  11. Vicki, I appreciate your courage during the IDG assembly. One voice is so important because it can touch so many people, and you did just that. Sharing your own story contributes to the awareness of the world that we live in. Additionally, the statistics that you used to open up your piece really grabbed my attention. Those are powerful numbers and it showed me that this issue is very, very prevalent in so many peoples lives.

  12. When I got onto the stage to read for the international day of the girl assembly, I was also extremely nervous. When I realized I was taking steps towards a change, I didn’t hesitate, and my confidence went up just like yours. During your reflection on the trip to the UN, I love some of the words to describe how you were feeling. I can see you using those feelings, to change silence into action in the future.

  13. Vicki, I really respect your passion for Feminism. It is so prevalent in your words and your attitude. You are absolutely right when you say that an educated female has the chance to “succeed” and “[may] break free from the shackles that hold her down.” I think this understanding of oppression is at the core of Feminist activism and is what influences we Feminist to continue speaking out.

  14. I really appreciated your statement about Malala’s speech being “empowering because we’re both the same age and if she can talk to the whole world about her story with the Taliban still threatening her then why couldn’t I?” I agree with you because it is one thing for adults to encourage us to speak out, but another to see girls our age, especially as inspiring as Malala, advocating on behalf of other girls and spreading awareness all over the world. She proves that we really can make a difference. Also, you did a great job of illustrating how simply realizing “you are not alone,” is often all we need to find the courage to speak out and make a difference. I, too, experienced this realization during our International Day of the Girl assembly, and I try to apply it to other situations where I feel scared or uncomfortable. Your line “We need to help girls around the world break free from the oppressions of society and rise, and if it’s scary to go against the trend of ignoring everything, there’s no need to worry,” is extremely true and powerful. It inspires me fight to ensure that every single girl realizes that they are not alone and that they have the same opportunities I’ve been given.

  15. Vicki, when you described your feeling right before and while presenting I can totally understand your emotions. I felt similarly, while the rest of my classmates were speaking I wanted to get up on stage so badly and just share my story so that it was out there. But as I stood in front of the podium there was a lump in my throat and I felt like I couldn’t speak. It was so frightening to know that every word that came out of my mouth was being herd by my peers. I think the fear partly came from being afraid that I would be judged, that my story would be judged. I think this has to do with a deeper internalized oppression, that I felt that my voice and who I am would not be accepted. After watching the film “Killing Us Softly 4,” I now understand that. Thank you for sharing your piece and encouraging other girls to share their story .

  16. Vicki, I am thoroughly inspired by your aspiration to speak up. The most powerful thing a girl can have is her voice. Every girls voice is special and I am glad that you have through our Feminism course been able to explore that. I am inspired on how reflective you are as well, not only should we teach children from a young age about feminism and activism, but how to reflect on what they have been given, question and challenge it.

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