It’s International Day of the Girl and here at Women’s Agenda, girls are taking over. If there’s one thing we’ve noticed recently, it’s that girls are rising up with passionate voices, blazing the trail for others to follow. Below, we’ve compiled some excellent opinion pieces from four passionate Australian girls, asking them the question, ‘what do you care about most?’
The future is girls
Philippa Merrick is a year 12 student currently living in the ACT
As young people, we’re constantly told we’re ‘too young’ to make a difference and to be taken seriously. We are constantly told to ‘quieten down and go back to school’ and our ideas have been ridiculed. But the reality is, we have big ideas, and we have the passion, intellect, and ambition to create change. We care for our future, as that’s what it is – ours.
We want to create sustainable and liveable futures where we can see future generations prosper and share their voices in a way which we have been denied. Youth has the power to make a difference, and it’s beginning to show, as or voices grow louder.
The term ‘the future is female’ is one that is thrown around a lot as a catchphrase and one that holds a lot of truth. Women’s ideas are transforming our world. We hold space for one another to have those ideas heard, and within that, many young girls are blazing the trail.
There are so many young girls, across the globe fighting for change. From those campaigning and advocating within their schools, to those organising community rallies, such as the School Strike for Climate, to girls like Greta Thunberg and Malala Yousafzai leading global movements, it is clear that youth hold arguably greatest stakes in our future and we’re prepared to fight for a good one.
Such a future can only be created through educating and empowering youth, building foundations on passions from a grassroots level, which is vital to creating a generation of passionate ad driven individuals, willing to fight for change.
When we create the space to see the results of girls education and empowerment, and enabling them to have a voice, it is evident how powerful these young women will be and how bright a future we will create in the years to come.
Voices of girls have inspired and amazed me this year
Tanvi Nangrani, 19, studies psychology at ANU and is a member of Young Women Speak Out
Today, on the International Day of the Girl, I am hoping that being 19 years of age can still squeeze me into the classification of a girl, because the activism and the astounding achievements of girls around the world make me incredibly proud to be one.
International Day of the Girl is an incredible day which recognises the steps needed in terms of gender equality and the changes which are currently in progress. I would like to highlight the voices of girls who have inspired and amazed me this year.
Young women such as Greta Thunberg and Jean Hinchliffe who are actively campaigning for change in the way we are currently treating our climate have empowered people globally to make a stand for action. Their voices have spread across continents and highlighted that no matter your gender, whether you fit the norm or not, caring about the planet and protesting for policy improvements should not constrained by any labels.
Passionate and enthusiastic girls, be that Greta or Jean or other girls who fight for change in smaller ways, demonstrate that spreading awareness on an issue concerning you is not restricted by age. I aspire to embody such bravery and confidence in my day to day life.
I care about showing up for my global sisters
Georgia Shakeshaft, 16
I find that as a girl there are endless numbers of things to care about, from the trivial to the radical, issues blooming like springtime flowers, each important and drawing my care, however, the rose of my garden is the rights and freedoms of women and girls.
It is global and intersectional feminism which I care deeply for. I’m proud to say it; I am a feminist.
Although I am young, I have worked to investigate the problems girls face globally, extending far beyond the wage gap. Illiteracy, education, violence, health issues and a lack of confidence are all issues that girls may face from ages 0-18, without yet entering womanhood. That means my sister, friends, peers and role models are all at risk, though I am privileged enough to have my risk significantly reduced, others are not.
Girls, from every background and identity have the right to access proper education and enter any field of employment she chooses based on her own merit, not her gender. She has the right to safety, security and equal opportunity.
According to UNESCO, there are 34 million adolescents out of school, more than the entire population of Australia. We also know that educating a girl has a direct link to the economy, both locally and nationally, and it is no surprise that some of the poorest countries have the least amount of girls educated.
I am passionate about taking action for girls, through fundraising, awareness and advocacy to improve the lives of girls around the world. Why? I could not stand to think of my friends, family or myself in a situation where we are denied such vital rights due to our gender.
So what do I care about? I care about showing about for my global sisters.
Double standards are dangerous for girls of colour
Ella Avni, 16
‘You’re so exotic’
These three words slip confidently from a suave 15-year-old boy’s mouth as it registers for him that I am not caucasian.
I feel as if this pickup line may not have been his strongest, however due to his mind being incapable of developing a compliment suitable for a teenage girl and a not a type of rare fruit, I don’t think this was the case.
I reply with an awkward laugh, however he doesn’t understand this social queue of uncertainty and furthers the pick up line with the tragic inquiry: ‘So like, what are you?’
This is not a one time case, young girls of colour on a global scale are subject to fetishisation and double standards. It’s not just in conversations with other boys, its ingrained in our society.
Growing up in the predominantly white area of the Central Coast, my brown skin and Mediterranean looks have been praised and paradoxically berated simultaneously by my community.
I have been sexualised from a young age, unsolicited comments about my hips which ‘don’t lie’ starting from as 12, with cat callers hollering ‘Shakira Shakira!’ as I walk with my family.
In addition to being praised as the Columbian pop singer, Shakira, these ‘compliments’ have been subverted through blatant racism. I am known at school as the ‘one like black chick’, having being called ‘Ella Akbar’, artfully crafting my name Ella Avni into something more racially motivated.
And the media’s not innocent either, with fake tan and cultural appropriation becoming central issues in modeling and the entertainment industries. Beauty standards are becoming infatuated with less culturally diverse individuals and more the idea of cultural diversity.
These double standards are dangerous, they are sending the wrong message to the young people of the world and are reinforcing eurocentric standards of colourism.
And, they are directly impacting girls of colour and their confidence in their identity.