October 11, 2016 was the Fifth International Day of the Girl. Seventeen Academy of Mount St. Ursula students, accompanied by Ms. Brianne O’Hare and Sr. Alice Marie, OSU, attended the Girls’ Speak Out in the EcoSoc Chamber of the UN.
Girl Advocates moderated the event and spoke about the issues of marginalized girls, girls in politics and the reality of girls supporting girls. A minister of Canada’s Parliament, a legislative body that is 50% female, spoke of appreciating the contributions of girls now as leaders of the present, not just the future. She urged all to leave no one behind especially girls who are among the most marginalized.
Several of the students attending said that they were impressed by a Girl Advocate who urged them to realize that they should do all they can to support girls. She said, “We have to be each others’ safe places. We have to be each others’ champions.” One student had met a Girl Advocate last year and felt that she was really in sync with this girl’s idea that “If we want to achieve gender equality and girls’ rights then we have to get into politics.”
Lakshmi Puri, Executive Director of UN Women said, “A girl with a dream is fire!” She spoke of the importance of the need for attention to data about the number of girls victimized by sex selective infanticide, stolen childhoods due to labor, trafficking, child marriage and violence. She also urged governments to invest in the support of girls. Girls from all over the world were asked to submit material to be presented at this celebration and there were short videos and live presentations about Islamaphobia, Black Lives Matter and Leadership promoted by organizations like the Grail, Plan International, the Bella Abzug Leadership Institute, the Alice Paul Institute, and the Girl Scouts. Poetic pieces, interspersed between presentations touched the hearts and spirits of all attending.
All who experienced this day carried with them strains from the song, “This Girl is on Fire” and the realization that gender equality is the best first step to attaining the Sustainable Development Goals.