Support Girls’ Empowerment Today

Guest post written by New York City school students

For International Day of the Girl Child, observed annual on 11 October, the NYC Mayor’s Office for International Affairs asked two NYC Junior Ambassadors alumni — a girl and a boy — from Icahn Charter School 4 in the Bronx to share their views on why girls’ empowerment is critical to creating a more peaceful and just society.

The NYC Junior Ambassadors program is an initiative focused on empowering 7th graders in all five boroughs of New York City to become actively engaged with the United Nations and its mission of addressing the most pressing challenges in the world. The program leverages New York City’s unique position as host city to the United Nations headquarters to enable youth to see themselves as global citizens. NYC Junior Ambassadors uses the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as the primary lens through which educators and students can understand the work of the UN and related global issues.

Here’s what NYC Junior Ambassadors Askadeline Milanes and Jermaine Norales had to say about the importance of gender equality:

October 11th is the International Day of The Girl Child — a reminder to empower girls. Girls need their rights to be the amazing human beings they can truly be and make our world better for everyone.

My name is Askadeline. As a girl, I care about gender equality because girls are half of this world’s population. If half the world is not getting the equal rights they deserve, then half the world is not living up to its full potential. This means the world is only half as good as it could be. It’s not fair that some girls can’t get an education, but I can. If I couldn’t go to school, I would be upset and feel as if I don’t matter. I would feel like my only purpose would be to support everyone else, which would make me feel useless and frustrated with my own life. It’s not fair that in some places or situations, girls can’t travel freely. I love to visit my dad in the Dominican Republic, but if I could never visit him, I would be heartbroken.

My name is Jermaine. As a boy, I care about gender equality because I think, “What if I was in their shoes?” I love basketball. If I weren’t allowed to play basketball because of my gender, I would feel mistreated. I think about how girls feel when they’re told that they can’t do something because they’re not boys. Stereotypes make girls feel like they are nothing in this world. I love my mom, and it irritates me that she is treated differently than a man. Girls should have the same equal opportunities that boys do. I stand up for gender equality because girls and women should be able to do anything.

Girls around the world — girls in crises — aren’t different from us. They are all human beings: just like us. The opportunities we have, they should have. We just got lucky.

That’s why we worked with the NYC Junior Ambassadors Program last year to create The Gender Defender Carnival at our school. By the end of the day, we raised over $500 for UNICEF and girls’ education. Even after the carnival, we’ve been teaching people in our communities about gender equality. But the International Day of the Girl Child is a chance to teach everyone around the world.

Girls are the future. What girls experience in their childhoods follows them for the rest of their lives, so let’s make sure they have empowering experiences. People need to listen to what girls have to say (we are important!). People need to support girls and their equal rights so everyone can benefit. And most of all, people need to learn to believe in change.

The International Day of the Girl Child is a day for empowerment. Let’s change one day into eternity by all coming together. Support girls! Take today (and everyday) to raise awareness, donate to girls’ rights, teach others, and stand up for girls!

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