Who will run the world? These girls.

For me, 2019 is the year of the nieces!

I was already a proud aunt to my nephew, Noah, but we welcomed a beautiful little girl, Olivia, to the family in July and there is another little one, Abigial, who is due in November. As any aunt would, I supplied all three of them with plenty of books that focus on inspiring girls and women. I want them to grow up with the confidence and knowledge that they can accomplish whatever they set their mind to.

Every year we celebrate International Day of the Girl on October 11. This year, I want to extend the wishes I have for Olivia and Abigail to girls all around the world. Unfortunately, many girls are still left behind and are not treated as equal to their male peers. Some are forced to quit school early and marry young. These girls’ powerful voices are systematically silenced.

Despite this, research shows that female empowerment is directly linked to healthy democracies, sustainable development and global stability. It will be better for everyone if we make space for girl’s voices to be heard.

Don’t just take it from me! Here are a few girls from around the world who dream of becoming leaders and professionals.

Panha*, Cambodia, 11 years old
Panha is in the 5th grade. She loves going to school and her favorite subjects are Khmer literacy and drawing. She wants to be a teacher when she grows up.

Sofia*, Uganda, 12 years old
Sofia’s favorite support is English and math. When she grows up, she wants to become a nun or doctor.

Sajida*, a Rohingya refugee in Cox’s Bazar, 12 years old
Sajida takes lessons at a Save the Children program. She enjoys reading and writing. She wants to become a teacher one day. She also wants to sew dresses and decorate them with rhinestone and crystals.

Maya*, Yemen, 11 years old
Maya lives next to her school and is a top student. There are no female teachers in her village, but Maya wants to change that. She wants to become a teacher and encourage other girls to continue their education.

Luciana*, Colombia, 13 years old
Luciana attends a Save the Children Temporary Learning Center (TLC). She wants to become a lawyer someday. “I want to help people,” she said. “I am going to be someone really important, someone really special. I think I already am.”

I personally feel like I have a duty to Olivia and Abigail to help build a world where girls and women are heard, respected and treated as equals. Where women lead and are active members of civic and political discussions. I want the same for Panha, Sofia, Sajida, Maya and Luciana, and girls all over the world.

If you want to build that world too, will you join me and raise your voice?

Urge your senators to co-sponsor the Girls Leadership, Engagement, Agency and Development (LEAD) Act.

*Name changed to protect her identity