by Katy Ma
On October 11th, thousands of activists, students, schools, and organizations all around the world will join together to celebrate the International Day of the Girl, an official United Nations resolution established in 2011. This year’s theme is “Innovating for Girls’ Education,” focusing on how educating girls is the key to creating a better world for everyone. Here are some current stats: a girl on planet Earth has a 1 in 4 chance of being born into poverty (The World Bank), there are 66 million girls out of school (UNESCO), and 33 fewer girls than boys are enrolled in primary school (Education First). There is a tremendous amount of work to be done to ensure that all girls receive the same opportunity at education and each is empowered to believe that she is part of the next generation of changemakers.
In celebration of Day of the Girl, the UN’s Working Group on Girls will host Girls Speak Out, a panel where girl activists from around the world will come together and share their stories. You can catch the livestream today, October 11th, from 3-5 pm on www.dayofthegirlsummit.org
To find out more about more about IDG, what has been done to make the Day possible, and how to get involved, I interviewed Eliana Stanislawski, the United States Actions Coordinator for IDC and member of School Girls Unite, an organization that helped establish the very first Day of the Girl:
Why set aside October 11th to be the Day of the Girl?
The actual date of the Day of the Girl is less important than the function of the day. October 11th is the date that the United Nations chose.
We need a Day of the Girl. Girls experience inequality in every aspect of our lives. It is vital that our society not forget the massive amount of girls not enrolled in school, not receiving equal opportunities in athletics, being discouraged from reporting assault, being forced to marry or work in the before the legal age, or being brainwashed to think that their physical appearance and sexual desirability is their most important value. There are a shockingly large amount of ways that the female gender is oppressed in our society and shockingly small amount of attention being paid the issues of young girls. That’s why there is this Day. We need to open our eyes and take action against these injustices.
How did Day of the Girl begin, and how has it grown as a movement?
The Day of the Girl began with a movement in Canada to urge the United Nations to adopt the declaration. My organization, School Girls Unite, heard of this effort, and we immediately thought this was an excellent platform to advocate for girls’ rights in America. Representatives from our organization worked to spread the word about the United Nations resolution and speak with US policy makers on joining the effort. When the United Nations finally adopted the resolution in 2011, hundreds of organizations and individuals around the world took action and raised awareness about girls’ rights during the inaugural Day in 2012. The movement was featured in The New York Times, Ms. Magazine, The Huffington Post, and many other news outlets. This year, our team will continue to reach out to and encourage young activists across the country to make big noise and demand change about issues such as sexist media, Title IX violations, sexual violence, etc.
How do girls benefit directly from the movement?
From this movement girls become empowered and experience efficacy. Girls are able to take action on the specific issues they feel most passionately about in order to make real change in their communities. For example, they can boycott (or girlcott, as we like to call it) sexist attire, volunteer and a women and children’s shelter, or contact their elected officials to pass bills. Not only do they get to make an impact on others, but girls can learn to see themselves as powerful change-makers, who understand that their voices matter.
Someday, we hope the movement will drive the end to the discrimination and complacency weighing down our society, so you could say that girls will benefit from the end of sexism. Imagine a society that isn’t constricted by two genders.
Real girls are taking ownership of the movement, which is exactly what we want. This movement will be a success if every girl in the country knows what the Day of the Girl is, and uses it as a platform to make the changes they want to see in their communities and across the globe.
What can someone interested do to get involved?
If you want to become involved in the movement, take action! You can use any of our resources to help you, and we would love to hear about your efforts. You can join our efforts here: http://dayofthegirl.org/register/
We ask that if you plan any events or action for Day of the Girl you register it with us using that link. We want to be able to measure our impact to make sure that in future years we can make the Day even bigger and better than before.
We also plan on organizing a Congress Call-In Day in conjunction with the Day of the Girl – the details of which will be released soon.
Follow us on facebook, twitter, tumblr, youtube, and check out our website to keep up to date on all of the upcoming ways that you can help make a difference with this movement.
How do you foresee Day of the Girl expanding in the next 5 years? 10 years?
Day of the Girl is a yearly reflection of what we’ve done and what we need to keep doing to fully achieve gender equality everywhere and we hope that each year we can get closer to ending the neglect and devaluation of girls around the world. We want actions centered around the Day to become increasingly ambitious and large, because October 11 is not just a day; it’s a movement. A worldwide revolution. The Day of the Girl is bigger than one issue, one organization, one country, and even the day itself.
Every year this 100% youth-led movement will grow. Instead of adults, even well-intentioned ones taking the lead, this annual girls’ rights is for and by young people!
What is your encouragement to aspiring girl activists?
No action is too small. Don’t forget concrete, specific action, where you clearly define an achievable (but nevertheless ambitious) goal and do everything within your power to achieve it. You have the power to make a change – seize it!
Also, make sure that you learn everything you can about the issue you want to change. As Simon Sinek has said: “knowledge is the fuel for action.” You have to know what you’re talking about, because when you try to make change there will always be people trying to arrest that progress and they will argue with you. They’ll also think that you’re young and naive – show them that’s not true.
Young, female activists are some of the most important people shaping our future. You are shaping the future. Don’t wait for the world to get better – make the world better.