Girls: Raise Your Hands

Raise your hands

Anti-child marriage advocates raise their hands in Sylhet, Bangladesh.

“Don’t be afraid to raise your hand.”

This simple yet profound piece of advice from Rohini Anand, a senior vice president for Sodexo, can apply to girls and women everywhere who are afraid to speak up. In a world where it can seem impossible for women and girls to get a seat at the table, the reminder to advocate for yourself and others can go a long way.

Of course, encouraging women to stand up for themselves starts with empowering girls. This can include providing girls with leadership opportunities, resources to grow their leadership skills, or even strong female role models to serve as inspiration.

That’s why events like the recent ASPEN Institute Forum of Women and Girls’ Breaking Barriers: SOAR Leadership Series are so inspiring. The panelists – Piper Kerman, Fatima Goss Graves, Rohini Anand – and moderator Gloria Riviera each shared personal stories of their own work in breaking barriers for women and girls throughout their careers.

Throughout the conversation, each woman shared a common, powerful message: women and girls are leaders!

From standing up against workplace harassment to advocating for criminal justice reform, each panelist is working to create a better world for women. I learned that together, women of all backgrounds can shape a different future that teaches girls they are leaders.

Unfortunately, we still don’t see enough women in leadership roles today, especially women of color. But the good news is, women and men everywhere are working tirelessly to change this for girls.

An example of this is Save the Children Action Network (SCAN)’s Girls’ Month of Action. Throughout March, SCAN and its advocates and partners are encouraging Congress to support the Girls’ LEAD Act, a bipartisan piece of legislation that promotes girls’ leadership in U.S. foreign assistance efforts. The end goal is to strengthen girls’ participation in democracy, governance and human rights.

Women as leaders starts with providing girls with a strong foundation, and having the resources to learn these skills can mean everything to a girl. Men still dominate leadership roles today, making it even more important for girls to learn early on that they are capable leaders.

As a woman who was once afraid to raise her own hand, I was inspired to see how far each panelist had come to create a safer and more inclusive space for women as leaders. It’s never too early for girls to learn that they are leaders and can make a difference. In the words of author Piper Kerman, “have the audacity to believe what you have to say is important.” And creating a space for girls to be able to do the same is how we will build a stronger future for everyone.

Urge Congress to support the Girls’ LEAD Act.


Editor’s note: This blog is part of a series that will run throughout the month of March to highlight our Girls Lead Month of Action. See additional blogs below. 

Empowering Girls to Influence Decisions that Affect Them – by Emily Heimsoth
When women and girls are able to take on leadership roles, we all benefit! But that all begins with investing in them early. The Girls LEAD Act would help make that a reality.

Girls Taking the Lead – by Sarah Poetzschke 
Across the globe, women and girls are standing up to discrimination and determining their own futures. Here are a few examples of girls leading the way for change. 

#LEADLikeAGirl: A Q&A with 3 of our Student Ambassadors – by Morgan Moran
SCAN asked 3 outstanding Student Ambassadors to give their perspectives on the challenges girls face today. Here are their responses.