Being Day of the Girl

By Ava McElhone Yates  

I’ve been to New York plenty of times, but I never would have thought that I’d be

going there for an international meeting at the Turkish Consulate in the United

Nations Plaza. In fact, the idea was so extraordinary for my thirteen–year-old self

that I rushed to apply as fast as I could in fear of letting the opportunity slip into the

hands of someone else. I was determined to go and I did.

I first heard of this event and the Day of the Girl in an email reading: URGENT,

Special Opportunity. It was from New Moon Girls Magazine asking a girl to

represent them at a kickoff event in New York City two days later celebrating the

first annual Day of the Girl Child.

 

The kickoff breakfast was at eight o’clock and that meant dragging myself out of bed

when I could still see the stars in order to make the drive from Massachusetts to the

city. I had no idea what to expect. The Day of the Girl  sounded like it fit exactly

within my interests. It combined my passion for girls’ rights and feminism with my

enthusiasm for meeting new people and trying new things. I was more than excited

and positive it would be a fantastic experience, yet nothing quite prepared me for

what happened that morning.

 

For the first time I saw important adult leaders talk about what I truly believed in.

The Turkish ambassador to the United Nations led the meeting and introduced the

individuals at the long table we sat at as the ambassadors from Canada, Somalia, and

New Zealand. The world was represented together with a group of enthusiastic and

determined individuals mere feet away from me. I watched people get up and speak

one after another. They spoke about the issues facing girls today around the world

including violence, forced marriage, and lack of education. I listened to women talk

about their organizations, their dreams, and their aspirations. But most of all I heard

them talk about girls. Girls like me around the world. At one point my group from

the magazine was asked to stand. Flustered and listening to the applause around me

as I stood next to my seat, I was the inspiration to those adults just as they were to

me. That concept was new and slightly strange. But I think it gave me a connection

to this day no one else could have quite achieved. How often do you see people

applauding for someone just because they’re a girl?

 

Many people can get up and say that ‘x’ taught them “they can produce change”. It

is a phrase you hear all the time. It seems as if whenever anyone does something

inspiring they say they can help change the way things are being done. But for me

the Day of the Girl takes it a step further. I learned I am an integral part in making

change. I can’t stop now and I can’t stop soon, because girls still have a long way to

go. But every once in a while I hear someone mention this United Nations’ holiday

and I feel proud to be a girl and proud to be in a world with people who take me, and

others like me, seriously.

 

I think many people can be ignorant to the continued sexism and discrimination

girls and face. Women as a group have advanced drastically in the past few decades

and some people may see that as succeeding a goal, although shouldn’t that just

be a step to achieving something greater? It is this hidden sexism that exists daily

which is harmful. Particularly, I think, to girls. If a girl grows up not believing she is

important, it is incredibly difficult to change that later on in her life.

Since that breakfast the Day of the Girl has been an integral part of the way I think

about things. When I look at the news I automatically go to the pieces on feminism,

women, and gender oppression. Some of those articles make me proud to be a

girl and some of them make me angry. But at least I know there are strong, clever,

powerful, and inspired people who are angry at those articles, too.


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