I’ve always been proud to say that I come from a family of strong, female leaders. The women in my family are teachers, marketing experts, nurses, doctors, caretakers, artists, entrepreneurs – and in the case of both grandmothers – undisputed matriarchs. I’ve grown up surrounded by powerful examples of women in charge, and it’s helped me to have confidence in my own ability. And as the proud aunt of two incredible little girls, I’m so excited to see all of the amazing things they will do as they learn and grow.
I know this isn’t the case for every girl though. I’ve grown up in an environment in which a girl’s education and development are prioritized the same as boys. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for many girls around the world.
The data are shocking. Approximately 132 million girls between the age of 6 and 17 are out of a classroom. Girls are 2 times more likely than boys to never set foot in a classroom. Additionally, globally, every 10 minutes a girl dies as a result of violence. Although women make up more than 50% of the world’s population, it will take more than 95 years to achieve gender equality in political participation.
Facts like that are horrifying, and can seem really discouraging. Fortunately, 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.
Nabila*, 13, Za’atari camp for Syrian refugees, Jordan
At only 13, Nabila is an activist in her community. She advocates for education and to put an end to early marriage and violence towards children. “When we see something wrong, we have to stop it,” she said. “Adults have a lot to learn from children. We won’t stop until they listen to us.” Nabila wants to become a doctor or lawyer when she’s older.
Anxhela, 16, Albania
Anxhela is a Save the Children Champion for Children, and an advocate for children (specifically girls’) rights. Poverty is a major concern in her community, and it is affecting how many children are able to succeed. Anxhela spoke on a panel on Capitol Hill in October 2019 entitled “GirlForce: Unscripted and Unstoppable.” She also participated in the Bridge the Gap Challenge in New York City to promote gender equality here in the U.S. and around the world.
Luisa*, 16, Colombia
Luisa is in the 10th grade and wants to help her school, and eventually her country, to emphasize education and diminish violence. She is part of a program called “Access to a Safe and Quality Education in the Catatumbo,” where she learns about children’s rights and shares her knowledge with her classmates.
Leah, 14, South Sudan
Leah, 14, is an advocate for children from Juba in South Sudan. In October 2019, Leah spoke at the UN Centre in Addis Ababa about ensuring children’s safety in times of conflict. Leah spoke alongside delegates from the African Union, government representatives and child protection experts to discuss how local, national and global entities can protect children, especially girls, who are affected by armed conflict in Africa.
Laxmi*, 13, India
Laxmi attends a government-run boarding school in a village in Telangana with her sister Kavita, 11. Both girls dropped out of school when they were younger, but a former teacher and Save the Children employee helped them return to their studies. Now Laxmi is doing the same for other students. She has already convinced two girls to return to school and she hopes to convince more. Laxmi is also very passionate about preventing child marriage and talks to other children about the risks of marrying young. She hopes to become a doctor so she can treat poor people for free.
Despite the frightening facts, girls like these make me believe that the future is indeed female. I pledge to help them achieve their dreams by encouraging our lawmakers to invest in programs that empower women and girls and break down dangerous gender disparity and discrimination.
* name changed to protect their identities
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: Raise Your Hands – by Meghan Pallardy
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.
#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.