October 30, 2013 •

Follow Their Lead

575681_10151915127280851_804282906_nThere are far too few opportunities in today’s world for girls’ voices and stories to be heard. In response to fact that girls today are often undervalued and neglected, the International Day of the Girl serves to highlight and celebrate the power of girls across the globe, and to create new ways of viewing the world and making a difference.

My experience at the Girls Speak Out proved to me how truly powerful girls are. I heard from 16-year-old Claudia about girls issues in Mozambique, Diana about undocumented youth in the USA, Malika and her distribution of bikes to get girls to school in Burkina Faso, Nessrine & Sihem about girls’ education and human rights in Algeria, Sophie about starting a swimming program for girls in Dominican Republic, and Yeimy on girls’ education and political participation in Guatemala.

The diversity that the panel of girls embodied, along with the diversity of the crowd, made the fact that they all came together for a common purpose all the more powerful.

With such diversity, the energy in the room throughout the event made it apparent that, although the International Day of the Girl is only one day, the ideas discussed and energy shared was not going to disappear when the day was done.

_FC73952Members of the UN provided insight and feedback on the girls’ projects. Their presence and support aided in the acceptance and legitimacy of the girls’ work – an official stamp of approval that girls, unfortunately, do not always receive.

Yet, the creation of a space for girls’ voices to be heard remains a powerful reminder of how vital it is to listen to these voices and follow their lead! The Girls Speak Out celebrated the power that girls around the world possess to create change in our local communities.

By: Ashley Van Riper, The College of New Jersey, WILL Program

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