Last Friday, October 11, was the second ever “International Day of the Girl.” A day to celebrate girls, and hell yes a celebration was needed. Then a roll up of each sleeve and getting down to business. Do you know what the International Day of Girl is all about? The United Nations website states:
“On December 19, 2011, United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 66/170 to declare October 11 as the International Day of the Girl Child, to recognize girls’ rights and the unique challenges girls face around the world.”
I am humbled to know that this day exists. We do have a few days in the calendar year that champion women, but sometimes I think the teenager or young girl is lost in that conversation. They are deal with first world problems like pressure from their peers (girls or boys), body image, rape, teen pregnancy, negative portrayal of girls in the media, or abuse, or third world problems such as genital mutilation, sex trafficking, violence, hunger, disease, and child marriage. Some of these issues are both first and third world problems.
My thoughts at the moment go to education, role models, and mentors. Do girls today have good role models? Where some might be privileged enough to have someone like Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook as their role model, others may need to have someone very tangible, local, and present as their role model. Do women in local communities have the time, patience, and dedication to be there for girls? Are you there for a girl in your life? I do not know many girls locally that need a mentor, but it has made me think more about being one.
Nike, Inc. started The Girl Effect many years ago. This year for “International Day of the Girl” they have put together The Girl Declaration. You will want to watch this video from The Girl Effect. I love near the end, where it says: “This is for every girl in the world. Who has a voice that must be heard.” I am also sharing the full text of The Girl Declaration below the video. Please be sure to explore The Girl Effect website about the Girl Declaration. Share it with others. Girls voices need to be heard.
My sister recently posted this article to Facebook. It is a Huffington Post article titled: “How We’re Paying For Putting Ourselves Down (And Why We’ll Pay For You To Say Something Nice!)” (The Huffington Post link is not working, so the above link is from Stylelist). It is a great article. It really made me think. It discusses how women cut themselves down and say things like: “I feel so fat” (you know the list that goes on and on). If they say such things about themselves they have to put money in a jar. The article then suggests the money going to an organization that supports girls called: Girls, Inc. I am just as much to blame for saying such things to myself. I will need to start my own jar. Maybe I should add a jar for my bad language too.
It reminds me of something I think about often when I am around children, (little girls mostly but that does not mean it does not apply to little boys). You know when you first greet a little girl, and they are wearing the cutest dress? You say: “oh you look so cute” or “you are so pretty” or “what a pretty dress.” When you approach a little boy, do you comment on their appearance? I imagine it is much rarer. I read in a book a few months ago (and I wish I could remember which book) where the author discusses how she has changed her tune in talking to younger girls (more in the range of toddler age). The author gave an example of a time recently at a friend’s house where she was interacting with their young daughter. She was very careful not to comment on the girl’s clothes or appearance, but rather she got down on their level and asks them what they like to do. Saying something like: “Do you like to read?” The little girl got excited and answered in the affirmative. So this author said: “could you bring me your favorite book and read to me?” After spending some time together reading, the author said she acknowledged this young girl by saying what a great reader she was and discussing the ideas in the book. To her it felt like acknowledging this little girl for something she truly enjoyed, and not the dress she was wearing.
I have vowed to attempt that in my interactions with little ones (really it should be the same for boys too). However, I sometimes find it hard. Sometimes a little girl wants to talk to you about her dress, or the bows in her hair. She wants to show you her doll or how she knows how to brush the doll’s hair. So, in those cases I take the cues from the little girls, rather than putting the idea in their heads that what I notice and comment about them is their dress, or pretty curls. Although regardless of gender, I will call out when a child has a beautiful smile, because that is something we should never lose and I think acknowledging it matters.
My hope is that if we approach little girls differently, just maybe they will not need a “I Promise to Stop Saying Negative Things about my Body Jar.” Maybe they will be proud of their bodies, because we will raise them to focus on who they are and not by their looks, hair, and bodies.