Oct. 10, 2012 This post is dedicated to Malala Yousafzai and all girls who raise their voices to raise the bar for humanity.
“You see a girl, we see the future.”
For those who blanche at the term “girlpower” as if it were passé and over-used, or comments that amount to whiplash inducing headspins in some form of “whaaa? Didn’t we cover this already?” here’s a very brief snapshot of just a few of the issues with a respectful shoulder shake reminder that there are more than 600 million girls in the developing world who do not have even a smidge of the rights and freedoms that many of us take for granted, and solutions-building movements cannot be checked off as completed in ‘to do list’ form.
As the first ever United Nations proclaimed “International Day of the Girl Child” takes shape on 10-11-12, it’s been exciting to see multitudes of different IDG2012 tweetups, ways to get involved, ramp-ups involving my own participaton like the “11 days of action” culminating in virtual summits using the social media megaphone to amp up allies’ voices.
The countless women and girls leadership events springing up in global grassroots style are bold declarations to recognize and uphold girls rights while shining a spotlight on the unique challenges young females face around the world.
Look no further than 14-year old Pakistani Malala Yousafzai known for speaking out against girls being barred from school who was shot point blank on her school bus yesterday reportedly after a Taliban member asked for her by name, aimed his pistol at her head and fired, officials reported in the Washington Post. Many are hoping this outrageous violence turning stomachs will also finally turn the tide against militants, extremism, and protection of girls’ rights, standing on firm ground as a timely treatise pointing to the “why we even need” The Day of the Girl proclaimed in the first place.
Will this lesson make it into the classroom in global news watching/current events among American high schoolers today? Should it? Will the International Day of the Girl even be on girls radar?
The media irony between developed and developing nations is a story in itself. On the one hand, we have media coverage of a critically wounded, courageous teen girl who has been campaigning for education since she was 11, taking a bullet for her outspoken upending of the status quo…
…Juxtaposed alongside vapid ‘tween media’ of Disney Channel with dumbed down dissing of education and ‘smarts’ in favor of dating-crazed, consumption-driven, sexploitation and superficial appearance cues.
The two cultural messages are not that far apart in end result to girls…
In fact, it would make for a ponderable civics homework assignment: “Day of the Girl: Why Do We Need It and Where Does It Fit Into Your Own Worldview?” Expound.
How can we best use media to ‘get through’ to those unfazed by what’s happening ‘elsewhere’ while calling attention to ‘fixables’ that are pervasive and damage that is happening to girls right under our noses?
Further, how can we remind those who mix up perception and realities thinking key issues have been ‘solved’ when they simply have gone off their personal radar?
I see this dynamic constantly, “Wait, we already voted for healthy school lunches, and the vending machines are all gone, so that’s fixed, right?” (Wrong. Keep an eye on those big food/special interest lobbyists, folks, it’s one step forward two steps back)
Or “Title IX has really opened the playing field for girls in sports, I’m so glad those gender inequities don’t exist anymore.” (Wrong. Read “The Decade of Decline: Gender Equity in High School Sports, a disturbing new Title IX report to the contrary)
If you take your eye off the ball, it can move…sometimes rolling backwards.
We need to ‘meet people where they are’ and uncork the conversation using media as a mouthpiece to change the channel of influence by tapping into what people care about individually…
Day of the Girl does this beautifully with events blossoming at every age and stage even though the roots and buds all share the common soil.
When I first wrote about The Girl Effect in 2008 it was on the heels of Shaping Youth being selected as a 2007 U.S. delegate for Global Women’s Leadership Network’s (GWLN) Women Leaders of the World program, and I was reeling at the vast potential and sheer pragmatics of what seemed like a common sense numbers game. As it emerged forth at the 2009 World Economic Forum, with awe-inspiring “do the math” factoids it all started to read like a giant ‘connect the dots’ game for change, albeit in complicated and colorful “Twister” style.
The Girl Effect media whonked me on the head like a heavy algebra book, and now 10 X 10 is helping finish that math to help tell the story in the next chapter, with the upcoming “Girl Rising” film in 2013 (10 girls in 10 countries, trailer below) which will leave you uplifted, upbeat, and a little bit upended.
“When women and girls earn income, they reinvest 90% of it into their families, as compared to only 30-40% for a man.” (Bam. Economics.)
“One girl in seven in developing countries marries before age 15 and 38% marry before age 18…Yet, when a girl in the developing world receives seven or more years of education, she marries four years later and has 2.2 fewer children” (Wham. Education. Population. And improved outcomes in health/domestic violence ripple effect)
The data just makes so much sense…It’s so encouraging to point toward the vast potential of “systems repair” in a world of broken pipes.
…And yet if you ask most girls if they watched the documentary on PBS recently, or if they’ve ever seen Miss Representation, or read fact-laden stories like CNN’s “Lift up women to lift up the world” or even KNOW about the energy of a worldwide ‘happening’ tomorrow culminating in a Day of The Girl Virtual Summit chances are it’s a sliver of a sampling…so we have to start with exposure and ‘make it relevant’ to inspire lasting, sustainable solutions…
The beauty of The Int’l Day of the Girl offerings worldwide are the multitudes of girl-focused projects and touch-points that shift the conversation to more meaningful media using channels girls can relate to on any given topic. It’s an ‘open source’ interpretation to seize the moment and finesse the messaging…to fit your own challenges and issues.
Child brides and lack of education may not resonate directly, whereas “tie-dye cupcakes” from She’s The First.org (raising $22,800 in eight days for girls education) or Girls Rock concerts (AfricAid girls edu) could. As social media casts a wide web of change agents challenging the status quo, girls go ‘glocal’ to interpret and tackle issues impacting them personally.
Sometimes ‘education’ takes on a whole different dimension, as youth leaders in the Spark Movement initially proclain the Int’l Day of the Girl in NYC then launch into their own version of an after-party of continuing education, by hosting a 3-Day Challenge with Proud 2B Me USA and NEDA to reinforce “we are more than our looks,” tackling body image issues head on.
Whether it’s tamping down misogyny and media and music’s role in violence against women, lifting the veil on human trafficking or preventing campus sexual assault, girls are using The Day of the Girl to “storify” THEIR experiences. Others are using The International Day of the Girl to plant STEM seeds of education that math and science matter.
For brainpower to nourish and flourish with 21st century skills elevating girls into game changers, organizations like Black Girls Code have actively turned a ‘web page in a day’ into a nationwide conduit for hands-on education that epitomizes “the girl effect”…
10-11-12 may be the first proclaimed “day” to get people to sit up and pay attention to what girls are capable of achieving worldwide to alter the course of humanity for a greater good, but Black Girls Code is already out and about doing the work on tour as if to show us how it’s done…
Next, the challenge will be to get ‘big media’ to pick up on this movement as a year-round conversation.
Imagine if Disney, for example, started embedding subtle plotlines that would build up rather than tear down girls’ education and empowerment and featured orgs like Black Girls Code or other Stem4Girls choices?
What if the ‘primp and pose’ hijinks and stereotyped ‘geek chic’ mathletes were multi-dimensional characterizations of girls, tinkering with ‘making and building’ to embrace intelligence building on possibility and brain plasticity rather than pigeon-holed pinkification and ‘playing dumb?’
What if the shero characters were integrally involved in seeding these aspirations, shown with toys and imaginative discovery (like Goldie Blox, Roominate and Little Bits) to innovate and educate from the very early years?
How hard would it be for the ‘big companies’ to get behind healthier messages and do some world-changing with their gargantuan clout? Not just on ‘one day’ but en masse, ongoing, with more meaningful content?
While I’m at it, why isn’t Disney partnering with their former High School Musical/Suite Life star Monique Coleman, who has emerged as the first ever “youth champion” appointed by the United Nations? Am I missing something?
I’ve followed Monique Coleman’s work for the last couple of years to make sure it wasn’t just ‘goodwashing,’ and though she is clearly “a grown up” now, she still has pop culture clout, running her own online talk show where celebrification meets philanthropy, called “the new GimmeMo” show…Hmn.
Wonder why Disney didn’t leverage a simple PSA for the The Day of the Girl to point toward her uplifting content for a ‘halo effect?’
Seems like a ‘missed opportunity.’ Even moreso if Disney is seriously trying to ‘rebrand princesses’ as empowerment tools…This fits into their makeover magic, with ‘brand oompf’ galore in positive role modeling at the whoosh of a magic wand…
Alas, if Disney wants us to buy off on the Nike self-efficacy meets glass slipper messaging that’ being put forth in their latest “I Am a Princesses” video, then they need to partner with women and girls leadership orgs to ‘show them the money’ and give them some love…Otherwise it’s just sudsy goodwashing lathering up more monetization with a feel good appeal, shades of Monster High/Mattel trying to reframe their sassy, hyper-sexualized dolls as ‘kind’ anti-bullying misfits.
In sum, I’d love to see corporate social responsibility collide with Day of the Girl action steps to pay it forward beyond ‘signal to noise’ frequency and result in some policy wins across the board to scale these messages in the years to come, far beyond a day of awareness and global focus on girls education…Media has the power to unite, uplift, engage, and inspire.
After all, it was the Nike Foundation that sponsored The original Girl Effect video to begin with, Levis that sponsored Shape What’s To Come global inspirations of women making a difference in their own ways…and Intel’s division SheWill that partnered with 10 X 10 Girl Rising…
We can, and must, just ‘do it.’ The Girl Effect is too much ‘basic math’ to ignore.
Here’s to many more October 11 amplifications in media, marketing, and beyond. Enjoy the Day of the Girl, sheros, and all of you who support them!
Here are a few more champions of change and unsung ‘sheros’ to put on your positive picks list.
Shaping Youth views from the lens of inter-connectivity in terms of medial literacy/gender and the impact on kids so we don’t fit the criteria for a ‘girl-focused’ org but definitely have written multitudes on ‘all things girl’ to raise voices and awareness. Here are just a few…
All Things Girl Series on Shaping Youth
By Amy Jussel