By: Karen Chee
Thursday, October 11 was a busy day for me: I had three cumbersome tests in school, and I experienced three rather intense revelations.
My first revelation: My three exams were not things I should groan about, but rather, be grateful for. With the recent news of the attack on 15-year-old Malala Yousufzai and her work in promoting education for women, I felt the need to appreciate the taken-for-granted opportunity of public school. I realized how lucky I was to have been born in a country where everyone was given, more or less, an equal opportunity at learning.
My second revelation: The fact that I felt lucky revealed something very wrong in the world. Luck should not be the factor that determines whether or not someone has access to education. Luck should not have the power to decide the fates of millions of girls around the world who are denied equal opportunities in school or forced into child marriages.
Growing up nearby San Francisco, California, I can honestly say that I’ve experienced little, if any, gender discrimination. I only learned this past summer that women in America are paid much less than their male counterparts, that certain members of our Congress actually oppose equal pay for women, and that the crucial Supreme Court ruling of Roe v. Wade is threatened by the results of the upcoming presidential election. But casting aside these (somehow) controversial topics, I do acknowledge that women in America are better off than many women around the world, particularly in third world countries. And while I am grateful for what I have, I also recognize that this makes it all the more important for me to fight for others.
I worked for the past few months to have Day of the Girl proclamations passed in six different local governments: the City and County of San Francisco, Foster City, Belmont, and both the City and County of San Mateo. The people I contacted and worked with in the various city councils and county boards were very kind and helpful, and sometimes even emailed me back to note their appreciation for my work. It was incredible to learn that adult leaders in the community were honestly grateful for and encouraged youth initiative, and this led to…
My third revelation: It is up to us, the so-called “common people,” to actually fight for equality. I took my experience in a positive light—sure, there were council members who did not consider women’s rights as part of their agendas, but the fact that my work was able to affect their plans was truly inspirational. And it’s even more inspirational to know that I do not stand alone in this civil fight.
The worldwide push for women’s rights to education and opportunity and equality under the law is becoming stronger than ever, and with Malala Yousufzai’s near martyrdom, it’s clear that the need for this change is more crucial than ever. Women around the world face problems like sex trafficking, gender-based violence, discrimination in the work force, and, in my case, arduous school exams. But wherever we may live, and whichever government we may live under, we have to remember: we are all women, all people, all living on the same planet, and we have to work together to do what is right.
This is a guest blog by 17 year old Karen Chee, from Foster City, California!