The UN has set aside October 11, 2012 as the first-ever International Day of the Girl. Their goal is to recognize that empowerment of and investment in girls is critical for economic growth, the eradication of poverty, meaningful participation of girls in decisions that affect them and breaking the cycle of discrimination and violence. This day provides focus to efforts that are helping girls gain “the active support and engagement of their parents, legal guardians, families and care providers, as well as boys and men and the wider community.”
What’s the problem?
There are a litany of issues facing girls worldwide including illiteracy, school dropout, forced marriage, violence and media misrepresentation. These are not new problems, but are issues rooted in systems of inequality that have been around for a long time. There are overwhelming stats that can never fully convey the heart-breaking realities they reveal. I could share some of these little bullet points of information that would temporarily piece your heart, but we’ve got bullet-proof brains. Our ancient lizard brain tags this unpleasant information as fearsome or dangerous and then our natural instinct of flight or fight kicks in. This information can actually stop us in our tracks, especially if we feel there’s nothing we can do directly to take action. So if we’re serious about addressing these issues, where do we start?
I like to focus on alternate realities. Eve Ensler has a vision that I love – what would things be like “if teenage girls wake up, if teenage girls take it back, this whole world will change overnight because they have more energy, more brilliance, more gut-filled, open-hearted wisdom”. I heard about many alternate realities at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing this past week. The conference experience itself was an alternate reality with 3,600 tech women gathered together under one roof to share their knowledge and experiences. This conference also confirmed for me that one very important way to empower girls to imagine and achieve new futures for themselves is by providing them with solid foundational knowledge of computer science concepts and inspiring them to share their vision with the globally connected community.
Change the world
If the problems are so overwhelming, how is one day going to make a difference? As John Mayer sings, “Is there anyone who really recalls, ever breaking rank at all for something someone yelled real loud one time.” To me this first International Day of the Girl is planting a flag, taking stock of where we are and where we want to be. It is a milestone that we can look back on and measure progress. We know there are problems. We know there are alternate realities we want to be part of. It is time to move from advocacy to action – to show how to do the things that will empower girls. I am acting through Day of the “Tech” Girl and if tech is your thing too, I hope you will join in by investigating some of the resources below!
And if tech isn’t your thing, please find some way to empower and invest in girls so they can become the change we all need to see in the world!