Today is International Day of the Girl, and whilst I’ve been pondering what this means to me I haven’t really been able to sum it up. In case you’re not sure what International Day of the Girl is, it’s a day created by the UN to “recognize girls’ rights and the unique challenges girls face around the world“. And, just in case you’ve been to the Donald Trump School of Inequality and Ignorance and are entirely clueless, it’s a very much needed cause because women and girls are still treated as lesser humans in many, if not most, parts of the world . This is not about bringing men and boys down, it’s about building girls up. And no, there isn’t currently an International Day of the Boy, but feel free to create one.
So back to today. I’ve spent the day watching my own little girl causing havoc in a water park. Just sat there watching as she dashed about, whooping with delight and bursting into infectious cackles of laughter as she dodged another splash whilst her brother got soaked. Her little body so vulnerable yet so strong. Her mind free and completely unaware of any troubles in the world. Not just the world, but her world. She lives in a glorious bubble of childhood. How wonderful it is to be able to raise my children to know that they are loved, supported, important and equal. They want for nothing and can ask for everything. To be able to raise a daughter who knows no fear, who is smart and sassy and isn’t going to hide it from anyone, and who knows nothing but opportunity and adventure from life is the result of a battle hard fought by generations before me. She may be young but already she is fully aware that she will one day go to school and she will learn just as her brother learns, and as she plays at home for now she’s deciding she wants to be a doctor, or a vet, or a dancer, or an astronaut. One day my darling girl may well be one or more of those but for now she is simply playing as a young child should do. In her mind she can, and will, be anyone and anything she wants to be. But of course why wouldn’t she? This is not just childlike naivety, this a firm belief instilled in her from day one that she is capable of controlling her own world. My little girl is the product of a changing world, one that the men and women before her helped shape. From her great-grandmother who supported a family, raised babies, and built businesses in post-war London to her grandmother who raised babies, worked full time and managed to complete a couple of degrees, to her own mother who was the only female graduate in her subject area in 2009. We are not a family of women who sit back and allow societal and cultural conventions to dictate our lives. And I imagine my daughter will be no different. So given all of that, how is International Day of the Girl at all relevant to her, or to me?
Being able to raise this three year old girl to know her own worth won’t change the world, but it will change her world and her life. She is still a child when so many three year old girls across the world are no longer. Girls who are routinely exploited through manual labour and sexual abuse, or who are refused an education, or who are sold into a life of slavery, married off to strangers, or quite simply go missing. Girls who become women trapped by a patriarchal society, who are taught only one thing – to believe themselves to be lesser humans and unworthy of a voice. Girls who have never known equality and so don’t ask for it. Girls who don’t know the power of their minds but are all too aware of the vulnerabilities of their bodies. Those girls. The millions of girls who can become game changers if given a voice.
So that is what International Day of the Girl means for us. It is realising that as white, educated, privileged people we have a voice. And though our voices may be quiet individually, as a collective they are loud and they will keep the momentum going until every woman and girl can be heard. It is my job, as a woman and a mother to ensure that the children I am raising know the power in their voices, the impact of their words and the repercussions of their actions. It is raising them to recognise that there is still much change needed in the world, and it’s raising them to know they can be the change they want to see in the world. And if that change means raising their voices loud enough to drown out the misogynistic crap still being spouted by people like Trump then the world will be all the better for it. The irony is not lost on me that today, the one day a year the world could be SHOUTING about forgotten girls, the media is instead full of Donald Trump and the Clinton’s and their various woman-bashing ways. What a world we live in right now.