IDG 2014: Empowering Girls to Be Awesome

Posted: Oct 08 2014

Hey Activysts! We're getting pretty excited that this Saturday is International Day of the Girl, a day that stokes our already crazed fervor for making the world a better place for girls.

If you'd told me years ago that I would start Activyst or be as obsessed as I am about girls' rights, I probably wouldn't have bought it. Actually, definitely not. I even remember hearing other people talk about gender inequality and (big confession here)… thinking it was annoying. I thought "ugh, stop being so dramatic" or "just toughen up", etc. I never thought about girls’ rights because I didn’t have to. I had them.

Here's a snapshot of my childhood: get on the school bus every morning with my brothers, get good grades and think I am awesome, carpool to gymnastics or tennis practice (more awesomeness ensues), do crazy stuff with friends and bros on weekends (reaching obscene levels of awesome). I think there were a few times where I heard boys say things like “You can’t do that. You’re a girl”, but I knew from experience that just wasn't right, so I would prove them wrong and... ya know, that was that. 

It was understood in my family that I could do whatever my brothers did. Opportunities and the ability to achieve simply didn't have anything to do with gender. So gender issues and girls' rights? Not on my radar.

But then I left this bubble, and got further and further outside of it. I ultimately ended up living in Nicaragua, where girls' conditions are NOT great (worst in the Western Hemisphere, second only to Haiti). Many parents don’t want their girls to go to school or have other interests, because those take away from household responsibilities. If girls are outside the home, they will likely be harassed, touched, or worse. I heard lots of "Well, what do you expect? Girls shouldn't be in the street." Underlying these inequities are assumptions - taken to be truths - that girls simply can't achieve what boys can, that they're not as good. And these aren't limited to Nicaragua or some region; they're alive and kicking in much of the world. Girls worldwide are being sold into slavery, kidnapped en masse from schools, arrested for driving (driving!), being denied access to every type of opportunity. If you're watching closely, you can see these assumptions in varying degrees in the US too.

It hit me that I won the lottery. I was among the small percentage of girls to be born in a country, family and time period where I would not be treated like a second-class citizen by virtue of being a girl. I had the opportunity to be awesome. SO STINKING LUCKY.

International Day of the Girl is about finally recognizing how difficult it is to be a girl in much of the world. More importantly, it's about creating a world where it's the norm, and not the exception, for girls to have equal rights and the opportunity to be awesome. Right now, only a small percentage of girls - the lottery winners – have the opportunity to reach their true potential. Can you even imagine the level of awesomeness if they all could?

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We’ll be highlighting the challenges and triumphs of some of the amazing girls we support on Instagram, and are hoping you’ll share challenges and triumphs of your own. Thanks for being awesome yourselves, and Happy International Day of the Girl! 

- Katie

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