Today is International Day of the Girl. Since 2012, the 11th of October has been marked as the day to highlight and address the unique challenges girls all around the world face and to ensure we continue to recognise the rights of women and girls as HUMAN rights!
The theme for this year's day is 'Unscripted and Unstoppable' and there are so many girls around the world who are truly unstoppable — there are more girls today attending and completing school, fewer are getting married or becoming mothers while still children and more are gaining the skills they need to excel in this ever-evolving world.
In my work as an international aid worker, I have witnessed the incredible achievements of girls all over the world. Girls who have been given an opportunity to smash stereotypes and create change not just in their own lives, but in the lives of people around them. They are the girls who raised their hands to answer questions even when they were the only girl in their class, the girls who started their own businesses when everyone told them that they had no place outside of the home, and the girls who have actively sought to challenge huge global injustices.
At One Girl, we continually strive to amplify the voices of girls and young women both here in Australia and overseas because we know how important it is to hear their voices and support them as they strive to drive change in their communities, call out inequalities, and lead global movements like the fight for climate justice and action. Because too often those injustices can seem overwhelming and too often these voices are silenced — or talked over.
At One Girl we’re lucky enough to have several young women on staff who speak up to drive positive change both within the organisation and in our programs overseas, so today on International Day of the Girl, we’ll hear from Bec ...
A few months ago, it seemed every day I was hearing more and more about the catastrophic effect of the changing climate on the world and its people. It was starting to feel like we’d gone too far to be able to do anything about it. I convinced myself I needed to learn how to grow my own food, not have children, and prepare myself for the inevitable climate apocalypse ...
My job involves working with One Girl supporters in schools, universities and workplaces all over Australia to inspire them to take action in support of girls education. But even I was feeling pretty hopeless at the state of the world. How do you ‘inspire’ people to create change when you, yourself, are not even sure that it’s possible?
But then I realised I had started to feel something I hadn't felt in a while – a sense of hope. Why the sudden shift from doomsday prepping to hopeful optimism?
Because I learnt that I didn't need to quit my job, move to a secure location and go off-grid. In fact, it turned out the best thing I could do for the planet and its future was exactly what I was already doing: putting my energy into working for an organisation that has the education of girls and women at its core.
Recent research has shown us that the combination of educating girls and equipping them with sexual and reproductive health knowledge, is the number one way we can fight the climate crisis. For me, this knowledge has given me almost a new lease on life. Because it shows that while those in power might not be taking action, we still have a chance. Investing in girls and women and allowing us to make choices over our bodies, our futures, and our lives can save us all.
Standing at the School Strike 4 Climate in Melbourne a few weeks ago, listening to the phenomenal young women who MC’d the event, it made total sense that young women and girls are the answer to solving the climate crisis. Because we’re already the ones leading the change.
And leading it they are!
We see this in our own programs as well. When provided with knowledge and skills, girls and young women are remarkable forces for change. Time and again we see them sharing their knowledge with others to create a ripple effect across entire communities. We see them working together to remove barriers and lead the way so other girls don’t have to fight to go to school, to get a job, or to make decisions over their own bodies. THIS is the power of girls.
Like Bec, I go through times when I feel overwhelmed with the seemingly enormous scale of global problems like the climate crisis. But hearing from the young women at the climate strike, from Greta Thunburg and Autumn Peltier at the UN Climate Summit, and from the girls in our programs in Sierra Leone and Uganda, I am filled with optimism and excitement!
Because it feels like we already have the solution to these problems. By supporting girls and young women through education programs, through encouraging and amplifying their voices, and simply by listening to their concerns and their solutions, we can create enormous change together.
And this is what I love about International Day of the Girl. It’s a day to listen to them. To support them. To BELIEVE in them. And to recognise their rights as HUMAN rights — all over the world.