In the One Girl calendar, October 11 has been circled about twenty times; there are five glittery arrows pointing to it and a countdown in the month leading up.
In other words, October 11 is a Pretty Big Deal™ around here.
Why? Because it’s International Day of the Girl, our favourite day of the year! Normally we would have a big event or launch a new report to honour this amazing day of celebrating girls. But because it’s 2020, and given the theme of the day this year is “my voice, our equal future”, we decided to simply take a seat and elevate the voices of girls instead.
We sent out a survey to girls under 24 within the One Girl community in both Sierra Leone and Australia, asking them to weigh in on what their vision for a better future, inspired by girls, could look like. We gave them no prompts; there was no multiple choice. We simply asked the girls to share their thoughts — and to be honest, their vision for the world made us want to invent a time-travel machine.
THE WORLD WOULD BE A MORE COMPASSIONATE PLACE — FOR EVERYONE
“Females carry a lot of love, compassion and strength in their hearts and these are qualities the world needs when making decisions that affect a big group of people.”
About 50% of respondents said they believed that if girls could design the future, it would be a much kinder place for everyone to live. “Gender, race and sexuality wouldn't be reasons to judge or exclude someone,” one respondent said. Many felt that the discrimination historically shown against women and girls meant that they would be empathetic to the struggles of other groups and would fight for equality and justice. “To speak generally, women are perceived to have a nature that is more caring and compassionate in comparison to men. Therefore a world inspired by girls would (very generally) be kinder, happier and full of love!!”
Others felt that girls would use compassion to create change within our legal and healthcare systems: “Many laws would be changed or regulated; general and mental health would be improved,” said one recipient. And tying it to a more recent example, another recipient drew the conclusion: “I think it is very telling that the countries with some of the best COVID-19 responses have female leaders.”
*cough Jacinda *cough
THE WORLD WOULD BE SMARTER, SAFER AND MORE PROSPEROUS
“Communities that give girls the same opportunities as boys are more peaceful and prosperous, more likely to grow and succeed.”
Despite the fact that only 24.3% of all global parliamentarians are women, the girls we surveyed felt like it was a no-brainer that girls and women should be included in decision-making processes. As one girl very aptly put it: “What’s the point of having a team and not letting half the team play?”
Many expressed frustration at not seeing themselves or a broader cross-section of society represented in the current power structures that exist today: “Girls and young women bring a completely different perspective on issues and have powerful voices that need to be shared. I think decision-making, particularly at higher levels, needs to reflect the intersectionality of people’s experiences, and young women are an important part of that!”
Around 20% of the girls surveyed said that a future designed by girls would be significantly less violent and a safer place for women and girls to live. One respondent said she dreamed of “a fair world where girls don't have to walk down the streets and be scared of what could happen to them.”
Girls also felt that the leaders in their imagined future would be held more accountable and make decisions that benefit the many, not the few: “There would be more open-mindedness to problems and more logical outcomes. Instead of passing the blame around, you would take ownership and make a change and the rest of society would accept that instead of dwelling on the past. We would be striving to make the world a more equal place amongst gender and race.”
THE WORLD WOULD BE GREENER AND THEIR FUTURE WOULD BE SECURE
“Educating girls is the number one way to fight climate change, to create a fair and sustainable planet.”
A surprising takeaway from this survey was the girls understanding that achieving equality in decision-making would lead to a more sustainable future. Project Drawdown ranks educating girls as their number 6 solution for tackling climate change and when combined with voluntary family planning (which is far more likely to happen if a girl is educated), it actually becomes the #1 solution. While we can’t attest if all the girls in our community know this fact or whether it was innate within them, 12% of respondents brought up climate change as an issue that would be addressed and changed in their girl-led future.
“If I imagine a better world, inspired by girls the differences would be bountiful … We would have a more just world with more ideas and solutions being explored for things like climate change and preserving endangered species … I hope that world exists one day,” wrote one respondent.
Or as another respondent put it a bit more bluntly: “Climate change wouldn’t exist.”
THE WORLD WOULDN'T HOLD GIRLS BACK ANYMORE
“Young girls often decide not to chase the same opportunities presented because they are scared or cautious of social pressures or have a stereotypical image of what they think girls should do in life.”
In the future inspired by girls, the barriers that currently hold girls back, including preventing 130 million girls worldwide from going to school, would be eradicated. For one respondent that means “pads and tampons are free”. For another, it would mean that girls wouldn’t have to “comply to ridiculous dress codes. High school uniforms would be made up of sports clothing, so kids stay active when they need to the most and are comfortable while trying to learn.”
Overwhelmingly, girls felt that their confidence and self-worth would improve dramatically in a more equal world. But the best part? They’re not waiting around for that world to come to them; they are making it happen themselves. “As a girl, whenever I stand up to do something, I most see the outcome of it, and it's a positive one,” said one respondent.
SO WATCH OUT WORLD, THE GIRLS ARE COMING
When asked whether they thought girls are offered the same opportunities as boys in their communities, more than half (53.3%) for the surveyed girls answered “no”.You’d be therefore forgiven for thinking this group of girls felt defeated by the current systems of power and pessimistic about the future.
But hate love to break it ya — you’d be dead wrong.
“Go girls, we can do anything! Be strong, never give up!” wrote one respondent. “Girls are great! Girls are leaders! And [we] can change the world. One girl at a time,” wrote another.
“What a man can do, a woman also can do — better!” was one girl’s cheeky sign off.
Even in a year where girls around the world have been forced to study from home or drop of our school entirely, when their rights have been reversed in many countries, when child marriage and teen pregnancy rates have gone up, and where their biggest challenge — climate change — is still lying ahead for them, girls refuse to give up hope for a better world.
And on October 11, on this International Day of the Girl, we celebrate those voices that we know will create an equal and better future for us all.
Written by Melissa Spurgin, One Girl
If you would like to support girls this International Day of the Girl, consider becoming part of our regular giving program Graduation and providing girls with life-changing access to education. Because education changes everything.