As a mom of two kick-ass, rock star, activist daughters – one an ace at advocating on her own behalf, the other out to save the world, one ant, elephant, human at a time – I am thrilled to launch Mamalode’s theme this month: Girls.
I came to activism at a fairly young age – 8-9 years old – as the neighborhoods’ bossy older sister who organized the kids to support my biggest passions at the time – Muscular Dystrophy carnivals and Special Olympics fundraisers. My parents were always supportive of these efforts and I donated most of the $30 or so we raised. Today, my day job is to advocate on behalf of girls and women in the developing world. The one thing I’m certain of, is that my voice and my actions have power.
While I’ve spent most of my career advocating for others, my 12-year-old is her own biggest advocate. She successfully lobbied her teacher and school to transfer her into a more advanced math class, effectively learning that speaking up can bring about change, especially when speaking up for a cause she believes in – herself. I love this confidence. My 18-year-old has been a passionate advocate for others. She started a Girl Up Club in high school, interned at the United Nations Foundation, has lobbied her representatives on Capitol Hill, and signs every petition that comes through her email. Both girls realize their voices are strong and powerful, whether advocating for themselves, or for others.
No voices have been more inspiring than my friends’ Sa’a, Suzie and Zei, three young Nigerian women who escaped the Boko Haram, because for them, education is the key to EVERYTHING. Two are studying to become doctors. One is studying to be a lawyer. Or a judge. And on International Women’s Day, they spent the day at the UN advocating for girls’ education. As we were leaving, the girls spotted Malala’s powerful words on the wall and insisted on taking a photo. Because for them, to educate a girl is to change the world. And they ARE changing the world.
Despite all of these advocacy styles being so different, there is one powerful commonality: all advocates have a voice. And it’s our responsibility to advocate for the voiceless.
Around the world today, through no choice or fault of their own, 130 million girls are denied an education for a variety of reasons, from cultural norms and costs, to violence and extremism. That’s 130 million missed opportunities for girls to reach their full potential and help their communities and countries to grow. If they were their own country, it would be the world’s 10th largest – bigger than Japan or Germany. Think about that for a minute. The TENTH Largest country in the World! 130 million girls is 130 million too many. If one of those girls was your daughter, even one would be too many.
So last month on International Women’s Day, the ONE Campaign launched #GirlsCount, a global effort to stand up and make the world pay attention to these out-of-school girls by counting them. One by one. Out loud. All the way to 130 million, each number representing a real girl currently being denied an education. To date about 10,000 people have joined the count but you can imagine how long it will take to reach 130 million. Actually, it would take eight years to be precise. Take a look at ONE’s co-founder telling his reasons for choosing the number 22. My two activist daughters also recorded numbers – Delilah chose 12,345,678; and Sophia recorded 2025 representing the year she will graduate college.
So here’s your homework and to-do list:
- Learn About ONE | Join ONE
- Make a video for #GirlsCount. It’s Super Simple. Claim a number > Record, upload. Done. P.S. Be as creative as you like.
- If you want to learn more about girls’ education, read ONE’s Policy Report: Poverty is Sexist: Why educating girls is good for everyone
In fact, the tagline at the ONE Campaign where I work is “we don’t want your money, want want your voice.”