The girls have taken over Women’s Agenda today and so they should, in line with International Day of the Girl.
There’s no shortage of these remarkable young women in waiting, with the passion, intelligence and drive to stir up the status quo.
And perhaps they won’t yet have the perfect answers — as certain columnists have suggested they should before they dare speak up about matters like taking action on climate change.
And perhaps they’re still using mobile phones, despite certain broadcasters suggesting they should switch off, if they’re so concerned about energy use.
But they are well aware of some of the local and global challenges facing us now and into the future, and they are injecting themselves into the conversations to declare that this is our future and we must act immediately.
According to an excellent report surveying almost 1500 girls and young women (aged 12 to 25) by Plan International Australia released today, girls are eager to lead on change affecting significant social issues and they are looking up to fierce and determined leaders and roles models for inspiration.
The report found a massive 91 per cent of girls and young women have expressed a strong desire to become leaders on tackling the biggest challenges of our time.
More than half (53 per cent) said climate change is the number one concern they have facing society. This was followed by violence against women (18 per cent) and poverty (seven percent).
Half again (53 per cent) said that climate change is the biggest issue facing their own personal futures, followed by 16 per cent who said gender inequality was the number one concern.
Despite the overwhelming number of girls expressing a desire to take a leadership stand on social issues, the survey found some of these girls don’t necessarily have the confidence in their abilities in order to achieve that leadership.
This is where we all need to step in and play a role. We can personally play a significant part in sharing the support and encouragement girls need in order to not only know they can lead, but to also ensure that social expectations of them don’t stand in the way.
It’s also important that we share our support publicly — on social media and elsewhere — of the girls and young women who are speaking up, particularly by rejecting the commentators and broadcasters who suggest these girls lack the experience and the education in order to have any kind of ‘right’ to get heard.
Thankfully, girls now have more female role models than ever before who have broken ground before them and can demonstrate just what’s possible.
They’re also being encouraged and lifted by the achievements and the voices of girls their own age. Greta Thunberg is the first that comes to mind, but there are plenty locally too: like 15-year-old Harriet O’Shea Carre, who was recently invited to New York to attend the United Nations Youth Summit, along with Harriet’s fellow founding members of the School Strike For Climate. There’s also 18 year old Macinley Butson, who has been inventing successful products in the health and science space, and was recently awarded the prestigious Stockholm Junior Water Prize. There are plenty of girls also within their own schools and communities leading on activism that we’re not seeing in the media but are quietly making change happen.
Today, this International Day of the Girl, take a moment to consider some of stats regarding girls around the world: the millions of child marriages still occurring, the 130 million girls that still don’t have the opportunity to get an education (including 30 million who miss primary school), the barbaric genital mutilation practices still occurring, the children in detention and those affected by family violence, by poverty, conflict and disasters.
Think globally, but also about the girls within your own sphere of influence. How can you support and encourage them? What can you do to ensure their voices are heard? What steps can you take to remove social expectations that may hold them back from achieving their full potential? Is it possible that they already have the ideas, or at least the drive, to make change happen, but they just need a channel to get heard?
On Women’s Agenda today, we’ve shared a number of different pieces from girls and young women as part of a #girlstakeover.
First up, here are four girls sharing short pieces on what they feel passionate about.
Then Elizabeth Payne shares how we can support girls in achieving their leadership and activist ambitions.
Lauren Sandeman writes on never losing your desire to be a superhero, and the everyday actions we can all take.
We’ve also shared a state of girls around the world report, thanks to the youngest member of our key team of regular contributors, Lydia Jupp.
As well as this excellent opinion piece from Plan International Australia CEO Susanne Legena. She says action is the antidote to despair for this generation of girls.
Let’s do everything possible to inspire and empower girls to achieve the change they want this International Day of the Girl.
Picture above: Courtesy of Plan International Australia, featuring some of those involved in their report, She Has a Plan: the unique power of girls to lead change.
Below are some other interesting findings from Plan’s survey of almost 1500 girls and young women:
Who do you admire for their efforts to improve the lives of girls and women? (prompted)
1. Malala Yousafzai
2. Emma Watson
3. Greta Thunburg
4. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez
5. Serena Williams
6. Ash Barty
7. Julia Gillard
8. Julie Bishop
9. Emma Gonzalez/Yassmin AbdelMagied (equal place)
10. Samantha Kerr
Who are the people best placed to build my confidence as a leader?*
1. Mother – 25%
2. Friend – 22%
3. Teacher – 14%
4. Father – 12%
5. Sibling – 8%
6. Sports coach – 4%
7. Psychologist or health professional – 4%
8. Someone else (specified)** – 4%
9. Male friends – 3%
10. Someone else (not specified) – 2%
11. Boss – 2%
*Note respondents were asked to pick their top three. **Someone else: influential celebrities, husband, God, partner, myself, my female peers.