Let Girls Lead is thrilled to continue our celebration of International Day of the Girl 2014 with this new entry to our blog series written by amazing girl leaders involved in our work around the world. In this piece, Lorena Gomez-Barris of Let Girls Lead reflects on the day that Niñas Cuentan, an Oakland based girls' organization, visited the office to learn more about the state of girls' lives around the world and, in the process, reminded us all of the connection shared between all girls.
In the spring 2014, Let Girls Lead received a phone call from Niñas Cuentan (Girls Count), an Oakland-based girls' group comprising of five 12-year old girls. They explained that they were researching issues facing adolescent girls around the world for a school presentation. They wished to meet with us to discuss our work. We happily agreed.
On the day of the meeting, the girls walked purposefully into our office with determination in their eyes along with organized notes listing hard questions about girls' experiences across the globe. These girls meant business. They quickly dived into what they wanted to learn. "Our research about girls' issues around the world concluded that girls aren't able to get the education or the access to health care that they deserve," they began. "Why is that and what is Let Girls Lead doing about it?"
During our two-hour question and answer session, we realized how invested and connected these girls were to girl's issues around the world, and the girls who lives were being affected. They presented us with the staggering statistics they had gathered about girls' lack of access to education and health care services, and questioned how Let Girls Lead was supporting girls and trying to change these realities. They were shocked that girls are routinely subjected to violence and abuse, and unable to access the same opportunities as their male counterparts. The more the group learned about the hardships facing girls around the world, the more they wanted to be part of a solution. By learning about girls elsewhere, they felt connected to girls everywhere.
We wanted to make sure they were aware of some of the work being led by girls like them around the world, so we screened our new film PODER. They were moved by this story of two Guatemala girls who convinced their Mayor to allocate funding to girl-friendly programs. Niñas Cuentan agreed that if you let girls lead they can change their own futures. After the girls' quest for knowledge about girls had come to an end, they had plenty to say about what they learned. Here is a glimpse into their thinking:
Mandy: "Women and girls are treated wrongly. For example, some men don't think that women should be treated equal and they believe that girls can't be smart or successful."
Sofia: "Men in other countries treat women as if they weren't equals. They sexually harass them for being women. In some places, men are allowed to just grab a girl and say they're going to get married!"
Vale: "Girls around the world are like us. They want an education but they can't always go to school. Some girls are forced to work with their younger siblings. Other girls may be raped, then get pregnant or kicked out of school."
Etta: "Education can really be so powerful and is so important. We are fortunate enough to have an education and we should use that as a tool to give others access to the same."
Sofia: "Let Girls Lead is an organization that helps girls access education. They show kids in a kid-friendly way what girls can really do. Let Girls Lead's film PODER tells the story of two girls who were able to fight for girls' rights in Guatemala. I learned that just two girls can make a huge difference in the world; it doesn't matter what gender you are."
Vale: "I learned that you don't need that many people to make a difference."
Etta: "I learned it doesn't matter how old you are, what gender you are, how many of you there are, or where you come from. Anyone, ANYONE, can make a difference."
Vale: "I think this will really help me in the future because I learned how to be globally concerned and connected."
Sofia: "I truly LOVE learning about what is happening to girls my age and, one day, I hope to continue working for and with girls."
Mady: "I think this will affect my future because I really love learning about what is happening in the world and how I can help. I think if I don't become a doctor, I will help girls get a fair education."
We invite you to follow our @LetGirlsLead blog series, running from Monday, September 22nd to the International Day of the Girl on Friday, October 11th on the Huffington Post. Each piece is an intimate window into the experiences of a girl leader and what she is doing to make her world a better place. Through the series you can learn firsthand about the challenges facing girls around the world and the amazing things girls are doing to create better futures for them. LGL will also be sending out special weekly updates from between now and IDG, highlighting the girls' work and sharing exclusive highlights of our LGL curriculum set to be released on October 11th in celebration of IDG.
Let Girls Lead is building a global movement of Champions who empower girls to attend school, stay healthy, escape poverty, and overcome violence. Let Girls Lead invests in girls and their allies to lead social change through advocacy, education, storytelling, economic empowerment, and strategic partnerships. Since 2009, Let Girls Lead's externally validated model has contributed to improved health, education, livelihoods, and rights for more than 3 million girls through laws, programs, and funding. Let Girls Lead's sister initiative, Champions for Change, leverages this proven model to save the lives of women, newborns, and children by empowering leaders and organizations to advocate for reproductive,
maternal, newborn, and child health in Nigeria.
Champions for Change and Let Girls Lead are headquartered at the Public Health Institute in Oakland, CA, a leader in global health and development for 50 years.