A woman with a voice is, by definition, a strong woman.” -Melinda Gates
International day of the girl is a day to celebrate girls. It’s a day to give them strength and voice as they grow and develop into women. Women young and old are wonderful human beings with unique strengths and gifts to offer the world. We positively influence families, neighborhoods, schools, communities, and beyond – far beyond.
Sometimes, though, women young and old have no power, no voice. Their freedom of thought and movement and simply being is grossly restricted. When this happens, these women young and old suffer, and so do the families, neighborhoods, schools, communities, and beyond. The world benefits from the strength and intelligence of women who aren’t controlled by others.
It is to draw attention to this tragedy and to celebrate the strength of women, of girls who are growing up to be strong, contributing females that October 11 is International Day of the Girl.
International Day of the Girl is About the Messages Girls Receive
Childhood is a time of exploring, growing, and learning. It’s a time when kids are slowly learning how to be adults. The messages a girl receives become part of who she is, how she thinks, how she feels about herself, and how she interacts with others. One realm of learning is how to be in relationships.
Humans are social beings, and we all must exist with others: coworkers, acquaintances, friends, family, and romantic partners. It’s a tough world to navigate, but when girls learn to have a voice, they grow strong and powerful and are capable of thriving in life for themselves, and by extension, others.
Learning how to navigate relationships can be confusing, though. By nature and nurture, girls sometimes put others first, themselves last. Empowering yourself, and using that power to help others is a character strength. However, forever putting others first because you’re silenced and weakened, controlled and subservient, is toxic and tragic.
Girls Need Role Models: The Power of Storytelling
Because it’s hard to find the balance between giving parts of yourself to a relationship and giving up your whole self, girls need role models. Mothers, older sisters, aunts, grandmothers, teachers, counselors, youth leaders, and others can model strength and can teach them how to develop a voice. Women have life experience they can share with girls. Storytelling is a powerful way to show how to be strong.
As a high school teacher and a counselor, I saw teens, both girls and boys (which also shows the importance of helping both genders learn how to be healthy in relationships) trapped in unhealthy, emotionally abusive relationships. Wanting to help girls find their voice, I wrote a story entitled Losing Elizabeth. The short novel helps teens of all ages share themselves without losing themselves, add to themselves without subtracting important parts of themselves.
Through her entire lifespan, a girl will be in relationships with herself, with a partner, with society, and with the world. One of the most important life lessons is knowing how to navigate relationships, to nurture others as well as herself. On International Day of the Girl and everyday, let’s come together to support the strong women our girls are becoming.