On the International Day of the Girl, Zonta International joins the United Nations in emphasizing the demands of adolescent girls worldwide to live a life free from gender-based violence, HIV and AIDS, learn new skills toward the futures they choose, and lead as a generation of activists pushing for social change.
In 2020, we observe 25 years since the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the global agenda for advancing the rights and empowerment of women and girls, everywhere. Earlier this year, UN Women launched its Generation Equality campaign, which “demands equal pay, equal sharing of unpaid care and domestic work, an end to sexual harassment and all forms of violence against women and girls, health-care services that respond to their needs, and their equal participation in political life and decision-making in all areas of life.”
“To achieve the vision for gender equity laid out in Beijing 25 years ago, we must invest in and empower the next generation of girls,” said Zonta International President Sharon Langenbeck. “At Zonta International, we believe in supporting girls’ health and education so that they may live to their full potential and positively impact their communities and the world.”
The theme of this year’s International Day of the Girl is “My Voice, Our Equal Future,” and the UN is encouraging everyone to “seize the opportunity to be inspired by what adolescent girls see as the change they want, the solutions—big and small—they are leading and demanding across the globe.”
Each of Zonta International’s service projects focuses on educating and empowering girls. Below are some stories from adolescent girls that inspire us.
Mestawet Mekuria, 14, is one of 20 girls at her school in Ethiopia who has been rescued from marriage. After learning about the consequences in her school’s girls’ club—which is organized by the UNFPA-UNICEF Global Programme to End Child Marriage with support from Zonta International—Mestawet went to the police. She hopes to become either a doctor or a teacher. In the meantime, she is actively working to protect other girls in her village, including her younger sister.
“Child marriage is a harmful practice, and I want girls to continue with their education like me,” said Mestawet. “I have seen my classmates quit school because they are married. I always tell my friends in my village about child marriage, and I will continue to do so to others.”
Fifteen-year-old Sylvania, from Amboasary, Madagascar, aspires to one day be a doctor. She attends Life Skills classes, which are part of UNICEF’s Let Us Learn program, which Zonta International has supported since 2016.
“The Life Skills program helps us as teenagers,” she said. “It helps us to face situations in life [and] it gives us more knowledge.”
Guadalupe Roman, 18, is attending Southern Methodist University in her home state of Texas. Winning Zonta International’s Young Women in Public Affairs (YWPA) Award gave her the confidence to continue building Safe Spaces, a club she started at her high school to help teachers communicate with students about sensitive topics without making them feel threatened.
“To know that other people want to invest in my program and also believe in that mission was a really great affirmation to the work that I was doing,” Guadalupe said. “I do need to keep going and I need to try to make this bigger.”
Zonta International invites you to celebrate the International Day of Girl by sharing these young women’s stories and elevating the voices of girls in your own community. You may also participate in one of the youth-led digital activism campaigns launching today.
11 October 2020