Pictured left to right: Kayla Mathurin, Sondos Asad and Chloe Morrison.
As the manager of the Student Ambassador Program for Save the Children Action Network, I’m constantly inspired by the young advocates who dedicate their time to speak up for issues impacting kids. Meanwhile, many girls and young women around the world are excluded from political discussions and decision-making processes due to gender norms and other barriers, even when decisions being made would affect their own lives. In honor of our Girls Lead Month of Action, I asked 3 outstanding Student Ambassadors to give their perspectives on the challenges girls and women face today, particularly barriers to seeking quality education.
Here are their responses.
First things first, let’s meet the Student Ambassadors!
Chloe Morrison: I go to school at the University of South Carolina. I have been a Student Ambassador for two years.
Kayla Mathurin: I attend Annie Wright Schools in Tacoma, Washington. I started my involvement with SCAN at the end of my sophomore year. This is my second full year as a Student Ambassador.
Sondos Asad: I am currently a junior at Robert Morris University in Peoria, Illinois. The first time I got involved with SCAN was my junior year of high school. One of my clubs, the Muslim Student Association, had partnered with SCAN to host a Syrian refugee night at my school. Last summer I reconnected with SCAN when I saw their booth at a local event. I have been a Student Ambassador for about a month now.
What challenges do you think girls/young women face today, especially in schools?
CM: I think there is a double-edged sword for girls when choosing interests, fields of study and careers. Women face discrimination in male-dominated fields (STEM, management, medicine) while also being shamed (or given a “that’s your place”) when choosing female-dominated fields (education, social work, dance). As an education major, there have been many instances, from family and strangers, who tell me my course is “easy” or as a teacher, “at least I’ll have summers off.” Women-dominated fields often lack respect from others.
KM: In schools, many young women are faced with ongoing societal stereotypes on how a woman should behave, learn and act. Education is rooted in historical oppressive systems designed for white males. I have the privilege of learning in a school that was founded for women in 1884, and although the first black women didn’t graduate from here until the 1970’s, white women have been honored here for centuries so some of the battle has already been won. Being a woman of color and learning in environments where our painful history is celebrated has been a challenge for me.
SA: Young girls today are breaking the stereotypes for what a girl “should be” or what a girl “should do”. It’s as if we are never able to please everyone. I’ve always felt like there were times where it’s so difficult to be a woman since there are so many standards that we have to live up to. But this is what makes being a girl or a woman amazing! We are each individually special. All of us contain moxie to keep pushing ourselves to be the best. It’s in each girl somewhere, we just have to find our passion and stick to it.
Have there been any moments in your education that really inspired you?
CM: Seeing children in my practicum classes light up when learning new concepts or being energized when they feel represented inspires me to work hard for them.
KM: The most inspirational moments in my education have come from my female mentors and teachers. I am surrounded by women who are unapologetically advocating for themselves and their female counterparts.
SA: There have been moments in my education that have inspired me. I attend a fairly small campus that is predominantly male. Sometimes I am actually the only girl in my class. I like to challenge male ideas and thoughts about women. One of my favorite classes was when my professor told the class that statistics show that women make better CEO’s. I felt really empowered in that moment.
Why do you think it’s important to invest in girls?
CM: All around the world, no matter what the economic or political state each country is in, girls face stigmas and discrimination. Stereotypes such as “girls can’t” or “girls aren’t” coupled with things such as period stigma or sexualization of their bodies makes going to school very hard.
KM: Investing in girls is important because girls are humans. Investing in girls is investing in humanity. If we want to see our world thrive, we must invest in our people and if there isn’t a budget assigned to it, then it’s not valued.
SA: I think it is important to invest in girls because we account for a large percentage of the world’s population. When a girl gets an education, the world is at her fingertips. Girls who go to school are less likely to commit suicide and/or be forced into a toxic marriage at a very young age. You are essentially investing in giving each and every person on earth the human right to knowledge.
What message would you give to girls who are starting their education?
CM: Let yourself learn! If you want to understand something about the world, go and investigate for yourself! You have the drive, resilience, and strength within you to break down barriers and create a space where you can change something in the world.
KM: You will experience barriers with historical and financial power. People considered leaders will say and do things that will make it difficult for you to learn, but we must gain knowledge. When you find something that grabs your attention – something that makes it difficult to put that book down or turn the podcast off – keep exploring. Education is what you design it to be. You have your own learning style, interests and needs. Advocate for it. We need you.
SA: Keep pushing yourself to be better, no matter how hard it gets. Grow from your mistakes and prosper. You will never get to a point where you know too much information since knowledge could lead to infinite possibilities and doors. Don’t let anyone tell you what you’re doing is wrong and never let anyone stop you from receiving what’s rightfully yours.
Thank you, Chloe, Kayla and Sondos! Your advocacy and ambition inspire all of us at SCAN. We’re grateful for the work you and the rest of our Student Ambassadors are doing to make this world a better place for all children, regardless of their gender.
If you’re inspired to make a difference as well, ask your members of Congress to cosponsor the Girls’ LEAD Act today!
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.
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.
Please check back soon for more!