At Girls Leadership Institute (GLI), we are more excited than ever for this year’s International Day of the Girl. Three years ago, the United Nations designated October 11th as the “International Day of the Girl Child” to recognize girls’ rights, bring attention to the challenges girls face, and promote girls’ empowerment. The theme for this year is “Empowering Adolescent Girls: Ending the Cycle of Violence.”
Why is this year’s Day of the Girl so special? This year, it follows Malala Yousafzi’s historic Nobel Peace Prize award. 17-year-old Malala of Pakistan is the youngest ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. Malala began blogging for the BBC about life in Pakistan’s Swat Valley when she was just 11. In her courageous struggle for education for girls in Pakistan, Malala was shot in the head by the Taliban two years ago, but it did not stop her from advocating for girls’ education. She has not wavered:
“They thought that the bullets would silence us. But they failed. And then, out of that silence came, thousands of voices. The terrorists thought that they would change our aims and stop our ambitions, but nothing changed in my life except this: Weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born.”
Malala found her voice at an early age, standing up for her rights and advocating for girls’ rights to education. In a speech accepting her award, she encouraged other children to find their voice and stand up for their rights as well:
“I want to see every child going to school and getting an education…. I needed to raise my voice, because I wanted to go back to school…. I want to tell other children, all around the world, that they should stand up for their rights, that they should not wait for someone else, and their voices are more powerful… At a time when no one speaks your voice gets so loud that everyone has to listen to it, everyone has to hear it.”
Malala’s courage and resilience have inspired all of us at GLI. She exemplifies the qualities we hope to inspire in the girls we work with all across America. As you may know, GLI teaches girls the skills to know who they are, what they believe, and how to express it, empowering them to create change in their world. We want girls to find their voice, to speak their truth even if it feels scary, to take a stand for what they want and for what they believe.
We can all learn from Malala’s bravery and leadership. In our every day lives, we can stand up for ourselves and we can stand up for our friends, too, if they need support. We can demonstrate leadership by sitting next to someone different at lunch, by trying something new, by raising our hand in class, and going after what we want. When we find our voice, there’s nothing we can’t do!
This is the face of leadership. Happy International Day of the Girl!