Girl Power: Malala Yousatzai and the International Day of the Girl

Girl Power: Malala Yousatzai and the International Day of the Girl

It just so happens that there is a girl who has been in the news a lot this past week. She’s not a pop star, or a model, yet she was able to stun Jon Stewart speechless the other evening on The Daily Show. She didn’t do it by twerking or providing scandalous gossip, but by answering a question with a stunningly simple answer.  The girl was Malala Yousatzai, the 16-year-old Pakastani who survived an attack by the Taliban a little over a year ago.  Stewart asked, “What would you do if attacked again by a Taliban gunman?” She answered, “I would tell him how important education is and that I would even want education for your children as well.  That’s what I want to tell you, now do what you want.”

Malala’s Accomplishments (to-date)

  • She disobeyed the Taliban’s law forbidding the education of women in her small Pakistan village
  • She spoke openly to all who would listen about her opposition to the law
  • She survived an assassination attempt by the Taliban to silence her (she was shot in the head)
  • She was one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People
  • She published an autobiography I am Malala, a New York Times best seller
  • She was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize
  • She met with President Obama, who declared Friday, October 11, 2013 the International Day of the Girl

This is Girl Power

Admittedly, Malala is an exceptional person and has demonstrated courage most of us will never have the opportunity to demonstrate, but what struck me when I saw the interview with Malala on The Daily Show is how young girls could identify with her.  She giggled and was obviously a teenager.  At the end of Jon Stewart’s interview, he asked if she thought her father would be upset if he adopted her.  By the end of the interview, I wanted to be her when I grow up.  I know that she is encouraging girls to acknowledge the power they have to change the world.  Malala’s done her part (I’m sure she’s not done), so what can we do?  How can we help the girls in our lives – our daughters, nieces, or any of the girls we love? As my mother was fond of saying, “you don’t have to recreate the wheel”.  We don’t have to come up with ideas and actions on our own.  There are some wonderful organizations to help us introduce our girls to alternative female images other than princesses or sex kittens.

Three Organizations for Girl Power

  • Hardy Girls Healthy Women – “Hardy Girls Healthy Women (HGHW) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the health and well being of girls and women. Our vision is that all girls and women experience equality, independence, and safety in their everyday lives. To that end, our mission is to create opportunities, develop programs, and provide services that empower them. Since day one, Hardy Girls programming, resources and services have been powered by the latest research in girls’ development.”  This is a wonderful organization that Ask Ajna supports.  You can start chapters in your community and help girls see all the choices available to them.
  • Miss Representation – “MissRepresentation.org is a non-profit social action campaign and media organization established to shift people’s consciousness, inspire individual and community action, and ultimately transform culture so everyone, regardless of gender, age or circumstance can fulfill their potential.”   When I saw this movie, I was shocked how much influence the media has on our girls (and women) and how often that media image projects limited options for girls.
  • The International Day of the Girl – “The Day of the Girl is a response to an urgent problem facing our world today: the neglect and devaluation of girls around the world. On October 11 of every year, we see dynamic groups across the world (led by girls, of course) acting to highlight, discuss, celebrate and ultimately advance girls’ lives and opportunities across the globe. When girls come together to talk about what really matters to us, we can teach ourselves and other people–adults, boys, and other girls all across the world–new ways of thinking about gender issues, which will help us take action to change the status quo.”  October 11th should be acknowledged in our communities.  The great thing about this movement is that it is promoted and lead by the girls themselves.  It encourages them to think about having Malala type impacts in the world.

Let’s demonstrate Girl Power

Our girls are going to change the world.  We need to help them be confident and love themselves for who they are, not what their culture tells them they should be.  I ask you to check out the organizations listed above and introduce a girl in your life to them or make a donation so they can reach others.  Don’t forget, they look to us for direction.  I know I’m going to think about Malala when I come up against opposition.  I now need to emulate her resolve to overcome that opposition.  That is how I will show girls in my life what it looks like.  As I said above, I want to grow up to be like Malala.

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I am passionate about helping women make the most of their skills and talents in the workplace, as well as encouraging them to ask for what they want and deserve. Creating Ask Ajna with Jae Lynn has been a labor of love and if we can help women find their authentic voice and support one another, we will build a community of change.

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