As of 2012, October 11th has been marked as the Day of the Girl. It’s a movement by the United Nations, which promotes girl’s empowerment, the fulfilment of their human rights and highlights the challenges girls face worldwide.
“We need to uphold the equal rights, voices and influence of girls in our families, communities and nations. Girls can be powerful agents of change, and nothing should keep them from participating fully in all areas of life.” — UN Secretary-General António Guterres
The theme for 2019 is GirlForce: Unscripted and Unstoppable
One of my all time favorite phrases is Tant qu’il y a de la vie, il y a de l’espoir. The direct translation from French to English is “as long as there is life, there is hope”, though more commonly used as “where there is a will, there is a way”. More than anything, I want for girls, not just my own girls, to know that they can make a difference and they can be anything they want to be.
Girls and women have been treated unfairly throughout history. Simply based on gender. As a girl child it confused me, as a teenager it baffled me, and as a woman, a mother, it enrages me. No child, girl or boy is less. I hate the fact that a girl’s empowerment act has ever been necessary, but I praise all the people who have taken it to heart. So many amazing people work hard on a daily basis to try to ensure even basic human rights are fulfilled. But the girls, the children, who take a stand to make a difference, they are the ones I truly admire.
It takes a lot of strength and courage to stand up, even more so, in front of the world, to state an opinion, a belief that you are passionate about. There will always be people ready to knock you down in an instance if they don’t agree with your message. These girls who dare to voice their opinions, fight for a better future, deserve recognition and a day like today. Influential people can stop one person. They can make them quiet down and disappear, but they can’t remove the impact these girls have on our lives.
Culture and religion
I have profound respect for culture, traditions and religion, but even more so, I believe in respect, acceptance and change. A lot of religions and cultures hide behind traditions to somehow justify inequality. To allow wrong doings. Now who am I say to what is right and what is wrong? Considering moral is also a debatable matter. According to McCombs school of business glossary, ethics unwrapped: “Morals are the principles that guide individual conduct within society. And, while morals may change over time, they remain the standards of behavior that we use to judge right and wrong.”
The society that you live in, dictates the principles of right and wrong. What I as a privileged westerner see as wrong may be seen in some other culture as right. Simply because the world is not united in regards to morals. Going against the morals of society, the behavior expected of you, you become a wrong-doer, amoral or even immoral. Even when you know you are doing the right thing. Until the morals of that society are changed.
When a young girl stands up to society, voicing her beliefs against ancient traditions still practised today, she is in danger of attacks from her own society. Even from family, friends, the people she should be able to trust. In my eyes, that is wrong. Denying a girl child education based on gender? Forcing a child to marry and have children of her own when she should be on the playground herself? We adults can barely pull off marriage if you look at the divorce statistics, but children?
We all need to make an effort
Movements such as the fourth World Conference on Women in 1995 are absolutely necessary. Though a lot has gotten better, we still need to further educate ourselves on moral, on beliefs, on making a change. Things that girls around the world need to face on a daily basis are heartbreaking. Promises that are made, but can’t be kept. We can’t save everyone, someone will always be hurt. But we can make an effort. If you want to look deeper into what you can do as an individual, head over to UN Women and read more.
Empowering girls is also necessary in the western world
When a matter is brought forth by the United Nations, we often tend to think it solely has to do with third world countries, developing nations, societies that need help from the outside.
This is true to some extent, simply because of massive differences in opportunities and welfare. Turning a blind eye, thinking that money and fresh water save us, that we’re so much better off, feels ignorant. Yes, basic needs and human rights are a lot better met in different global regions than in others. But we also have a lot of issues and a lot of changes to make.
Think about all the profound problems that exist in western society. These issues generated by societal expectations and norms. Eating disorders, mental health issues, unequal salaries, lack of self-esteem, the constant debate of motherhood, perfectionism – they are all created by our society and culture. Let alone the impact of massively excessive consumerism and our lifestyles on the environment, the only planet that we have. Though famish, acid attacks or forced child marriages may not be a norm in our society, we definitely have our own issues. And the only way to cure these matters, is by making a change. Empowering girls. Allowing girls to believe in themselves, be true to themselves and commit to their passions and beliefs. Those girls who dare to stand up, believe, provide a voice for the silent, they are our future.
A Girl can be anything she wants to be
I believe in the importance of equality, just as much as I believe in the acceptance of individuality. Not one single of us is the exact same. Let your girls dress in pink if they like, blue if they prefer, whatever color of the rainbow. Let them be anything they want to be. And show them they can be anything, do anything. Climb trees, play in the dirt, host a tea party or play with dolls, it doesn’t make a difference. Let kids be kids. What does make a difference though, is empowering them to believe in themselves and dare to stand up when they a believe a change is necessary. Support them and their beliefs. If you don’t agree with her message, find out why, be open to speculation and growth.
The world needs strong women, and it’s girls who grow up to be those women.