At GPS, we recognize our unique opportunity to teach girls in a world where so many females do not have access to an education nor the resources so many of us take for granted—clean water, good food, health care—and myriad opportunities for enrichment such as athletics, the arts, and clubs. On this International Day of the Girl Child, we stand with those who fight for the rights of each girl because every girl deserves an education.
In honor of International Day of the Girl Child, celebrated today, October 11, our Amnesty International and Current Events clubs shared with our students and faculty during Monday’s Chapel this year’s theme and some startling statistics. Special thanks to the girls for coordinating this special presentation and to their club sponsors, teachers Dr. Andrea Becksvoort, Mrs. Catherine Ingalls, and Ms. Kate Dix, for sharing the girls’ scripts with us.
To illustrate what girls in various portions of the world experience with regard to her education and hopes for her future, students took turns reading bios from girls who might live in these areas and were introduced by Shanzeh Rizvi ’20, GPS Amnesty’s Leader of Campaigns. (They have been edited here for length.)
Representing Finland | Leightta Sherrill ’20
I have lived in Finland for all 18 years of my life. I love school. In what you would call elementary school, I learned about the world through exploring by climbing trees and biking with my friends around our town. Without the pressure of standardized tests or hours upon hours of homework, I feel like I have been able to focus on myself as an individual and understand my impact on my community. The teachers genuinely care about our happiness and our abilities as we join society as adults. I have high hopes for my future. I want to go to University and study Economics and Foreign Affairs. I’d like to work for the United Nations one day and give back to my global community.
Representing Pakistan | Sana Nisar ’20
I was born in Pakistan and have lived here all of my life. I go to a matriculation school. My classes are Urdu, English, Islamic studies, maths, physics, and geography. By living in Pakistan, we deal with electricity issues a lot. Even when the electricity goes out the night before, our instructors expect us to have our work completed. Sometimes my mom will sit with me throughout the night with a flashlight, and helps me when that happens. I want to attend university in London. After that, I want to become a pilot and work for Pakistan International Airlines, just like my father.
Representing Tennessee | Talley Lyons ’21
I was born in Guatemala and lived there with my father. When I was 8 years old, my mom wanted us to move to Tennessee to live with her, so my uncle took me and my little brother and we moved to a city in Tennessee. For the first year, we didn’t know English so we didn’t go to school. At home, we don’t really talk about school at all. I take extra classes at school to learn English, but I still prefer to speak my own language at home with my family. I plan to spend one more year in high school and then I will go and work full time for my uncle and maybe open my own restaurant someday.
Representing Mississippi | Julia Combs ’22
I am 16 years old. I’ve lived in Mississippi all my life and I live on five acres with my mom, dad, two older brothers and my little sister. I went to preschool at my local church. I learned how to read from Bible stories and learned math by using building blocks. I go to a public school now with 523 other kids I’ve grown up with. My family runs a soybean farm, but we also grow our own food. College isn’t really an option for me. I plan on helping out on the farm after I graduate. I want to help Daddy build up our soybean farm the best I can, and I like working on the books for the business.
Representing Arizona | Isis Cantrell ’21
I just started middle school, and this year my district has moved my school to have 4-day school weeks in order to cut costs on public education. I am on my school’s soccer team, but we lose a day of practice every week since I don’t go to school on Friday. Sometimes my parents can’t take off work to take care of me on Friday, so I’m usually home alone. I want to go to Cornell University and study law, but I won’t be receiving the same level or amount of education as the other students applying from around the United States so I am scared that I won’t be prepared for my future.
Then Lindsey Campbell ’20 called 16 girls to the stage to represent these stats:
Ten girls remained on stage to represent the following stats:
11.4% of Hamilton County is illiterate
13.2% of Tennessee is illiterate
3 of 10 women in Tennessee will have a job in the stem field (this is slightly higher than the national average)
Globally, 50% of sexual assaults victimize girls under the age of 15
In the U.S., 3 of 10 women claim they have been a victim to rape or domestic violence by their 18th birthday
1 out of 4 claim to be a victim of rape or abuse after turning 18. (National Domestic Violence Hotline)
In a case study done by the Global Campaign for Education, a direct link has been shown that education can help prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS; 700,000 cases of the disease can be stopped if women are educated
Girls with 8 years of education are 4 times more likely to be educated are less likely to be married as a child
What follows here is a portion of the script that our students shared with their classmates and teachers:
This year’s theme for the UN’s International Day of the Girl Child, GirlForce: Unscripted and Unstoppable, describes unified global movements that work to fight for women’s education rights, end child marriage, take a stand for gender equality, and end gender-based violence while also confronting issues regarding girls’ self esteem.
Since the first International Day of the Girl 25 years ago, there has been a lot of positive changes for girls around the globe. More girls are finishing school, fewer are marrying or becoming mothers while they are still children themselves, and many are gaining access to the tools they need to pursue careers. Girls are tearing down boundaries that were built on the foundations of stereotypes and exclusion. Girls are living and leading this generation and paving a path for many more as they emerge as businesswomen and activists for global movements.
Today we bring together some updates on the current state of girls’ education and the role of governmental and educational leadership in helping advance this important cause.
Recently, G7 leaders, a group of the world’s most economically advanced nations, vowed to take action in promoting girls’ education. France, the G7 host this year, has promised to give more financial and technical resources to developing countries in order to help them focus on educating girls.
In advance of the G20 summit this summer, Nobel Peace Prize Winner Malala Yousafzai met with Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe. Malala pushed Japan as well as 20 other nations to pledge new funding for educating girls, saying, “The importance of investing in education for girls now will result in future economic growth and global stability.” She told reporters she hopes the prime minister will take the lead in advocating for girls’ education and encourage other leaders to do the same.
Despite the advances that have been made for many girls, girls and women worldwide still face the threat of sexual harassment regardless of income or education level. In western Africa, it has become increasingly apparent that girls are being sexually harassed while in pursuit of an education. The news network BBC Africa Eye has been collecting testimonies from women who have experienced such treatment. A group of journalists from the news outlet posed as students at universities in Nigeria and Ghana. While undercover and wearing secret cameras, these reporters witnessed and experienced harassment from professors. BBC Africa Eye has put together a documentary that exposes the ways in which some professors and university staff are taking advantage of their female students. The film premieres today, October 7th.
But girls continue to take strides in their education. For the first time ever, the UK has seen a higher percentage of girls than boys taking A-level science courses. (The “A Levels” are courses taken in the final two years of school before students go to university.) Currently, the enrollment in science courses is made up of 50.3% girls and 49.7% boys. One unintended effect, though, is that due to the increased number of women studying science, the number of students enrolled in A-level music studies has fallen. The increasing number of girls taking science may mean that the number of women working in the science field will continue to increase in coming years.
Another important aspect of helping to advance the cause of girls’ equality in the world is addressing girls’ and women’s health needs. The following are statistics from the World Health Organization, and they highlight these needs.
· Internationally, 1 in 3 women experience sexual and or physical violence at some point in her life; 18% of girls between the ages of 5 and 14 experience sexual abuse. Approximately 120 million adolescent girls have experienced sexual assault or sexual abuse.
· Every year, 12 million girls get married before the age of 18. In addition, girls aged 15-19 give birth to 12.8 million babies annually.
· In some countries, female infants are still seen as less valuable than male infants. This discrimination results in higher rates of abortion and infanticide of girls.
· Some of the top causes of death for females ages 15 to 24 are maternal conditions, self-harm, HIV/AIDS, and tuberculosis.
While these statistics are sobering, it is important to recognize the fact that female education improves girls’ health outcomes. According to the Population Reference Bureau: A child born to a mother who can read is 50 percent more likely to survive past the age of 5 than a child born to an illiterate woman.
Education and opportunity builds confidence and self-esteem, and girls with high self-esteem are three times less likely to engage in negative activities than girls with low self-esteem
In conclusion, as you can see, although the United Nations has set a specific precedent of the right to a safe, educated, and healthy life for all girls, the access that girls have to these rights are not always equitable. Our goal in showing you these statistics was not to make you feel guilty, but rather to inspire you to affect change. As highly educated young women, we have the resources needed to participate in movements and speak out in support of these rights.
Although International Day of the Girl Child is only one day of the year, it is up to us to continue the fight to support girls on an international scale. It is more than evident now that the future of our world is dependent on us. Girls. Throughout history, young women have been on the frontlines of social movements. Whether you identify most with Greta Thunberg, Malala Yousafzai, Emma Gonzalez, Susan B. Anthony, Joan of Arc, Anne Frank, Ida B. Wells, Ruby Bridges, Frida Kahlo, or any of the amazing young women that have changed the world, know that you too can make a difference.
“We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back. We call upon our sisters around the world to be brave—to embrace the strength within themselves and realize their full potential.”—Malala Yousafzai, youngest Nobel Peace Prize laureate