October 11 is the second International Day of the Girl Child. At my daughter’s school, it’s a half day (that bane of working parents everywhere), so we’re going to the United Nations for the Day of the Girl Speak Out, sponsored by the Working Group on Girls. The summit will be live-streamed at the Day of the Summit website, which explains the event as follows:
This event will give girls the chance to speak with governments and UN Agencies about how they are making strides for girls in their community. Girls selected for the Girls Speak Out will share information about their strategies for creating change and they will talk about how the international community can support their efforts. Approximately half of the girls at the Speak Out will present on issues related to the International Day of the Girl 2013 theme, “Innovating for Girls’ Education.”
After the Speak Out, we’re heading over to Times Square to dance and celebrate with the Brave Girls Take Back Media campaign, organized by The Brave Girls Alliance. They’ve rented a billboard in Times Square that will feature tweets from girls, parents, educators, and other adults about what girls want and need. (What do brave girls want? My daughter listed the following: “Clothes that girls can be active in! Legos with ‘regular’ girls! Legos with girls who wear clothes they can be active in!”)
You can tell my daughter loves Legos. And not the pink variety, either. The “regular” kind.
Needless to say, I’m very excited about tomorrow. I feel hugely privileged to be able to take my daughter to the UN and Times Square and listen to girl activists from around the world. (My daughter is a kid who loved the movie Lincoln and whose list of Fun Things To Do includes reciting the names of the U.S. presidents and several of the Constitutional Amendments, so this stuff is right up her alley.) I’m most excited about the fact that the main purpose of the Speak Out is to listen to other girls. I have no idea what they’ll say, of course, so I’m a bit nervous. My daughter is only ten. But the vibe around the event is positive, and though she might not understand everything, I’m hoping we’ll both learn from listening. And frankly, I can’t think of a time when we’ve ever had an opportunity to do something like this.
At the same time, I have some questions about the global girls’ movement. How to ensure that the missionary zeal that has characterized so much global feminism coming from Western feminists will not also inflect the global girls’ movement? How to make sure that a diverse range of girls from around the world will have an equal voice in this movement?
As a parent, I also wonder: How can parents teach our kids about global inequities and being empowered as activists without disempowering less-privileged girls?
I don’t know the answers to these questions. I’m hoping that listening will be a good place to start. And then, of course, talking about what we hear.
Another challenge for the girls’ movement revolves around this question: How to ensure that girls of all ages are included, and that adult women don’t wield too much power in what should be a movement of and for girls—a movement that enables girls to be its leaders?
I write that last sentence having just seen the film Wadjda, which features the most fabulous girl protagonist I’ve seen in a long time. Ten-year-old Wadjda lives in Riyadh, wears high tops, loves mixtapes, and sells homemade bracelets sporting popular soccer colors. She is fiercely independent and determined. What does this brave girl want? A bike.
Wadjda is the first feature-length movie filmed in Saudi Arabia, and the first movie to have been made by a Saudi woman, Haifaa al-Mansour. It’s quiet but memorable. I won’t say much more, only that the film reminds us of how change happens: one girl—and one bike—at a time.