Give Girls the Room to Run
Celebrating girls and the way they can change the world for the International Day of the Girl.
Draw a picture of what would make your world a better place. Go ahead, I’ll wait here. Got it? My picture involves shorter lines in airports, a little less grandstanding and a lot more altruism and problem solving from all political leaders, and more than 24 hours in my day. When I asked that question of 25 schoolgirls in India, I was surprised and humbled by the results.
Priyanka has a picture of her brother helping her carry water, because it’s not fair that only girls have to do the work. She thinks he should share the chores.
Rinki drew a house with a light and fan so she can study at night, a pump inside the house so she and her sister don’t have to spend several hours every day to get water for her family, and a bicycle to make it easier to get to school.
Komal has herself as a teacher counting, partly because she’s so proud that she can, and partly so that other little girls can learn math.
Sangeeta has herself helping her mother get water—from a tap at their house, because she’s a big girl now who should make her mom’s life easier.
Laxmi has a picture of a school in her village so girls can study, a good road so grownups can go to the city and get jobs, and an elephant—because the circus is fun.
How many ten year olds in the US would come up with better jobs for their communities, good roads, gender equality, more schools, helping their parents with chores and indoor running water? I certainly would not have when I was ten (although I might have had something to say about my brother); I didn’t understand what it meant to go without those things.
But I should know by now that kids in poor communities often have a great sense of how they could improve the world. Living in difficult conditions and having to work so hard for just the bare minimum, they can see what’s wrong, and they have some pretty shrewd ideas about what would fix it. They don’t need me to tell them what should be done; they need help making it happen.
This was all part of Through the Eyes of a Girl, a project that CARE did asking girls in five countries around the world what they think would make the world a better place. We believe that it’s important to listen to the people in our programs in order to make sure we’re doing the best job we can to help them. Even more, we think it’s important to give people who don’t usually have the opportunity a chance to speak up—to know that their opinions are valuable.
The girls I worked with are part of Udaan, a CARE-supported school in India that works with girls who have not gotten a chance to go to school. They take girls from 10-13 years old and give them a first through fifth grade education in one year. 98 percent of these girls then go on to complete high school. They get the tools they need to be educated, confident, and successful, and to make the world a better place.
I am humbled at the good sense, generosity, and dedication that these girls are bringing to their world. They want the world to be a better place, not just for themselves, but for their families and communities. These girls may be young, with not much education, but they are more thoughtful than many an elected official. Everything they suggested would help improve the world, and the beauty of it is, it’s all possible—if only we focus on getting there.
All they need is the room to run, and some support getting there. That’s what my—and CARE’s—work is all about: figuring how to get people what they need to solve their own problems. We believe in valuing girls and getting them involved in changing their own lives and communities. We also believe in helping communities and governments work to support girls, because girls can’t do it alone. They need support. Education, equality, parents and communities who support girls, good governance, financial services, and infrastructure—these are the things we can work toward so girls like Laxmi and Komal can change their world for the better. On the International Day of the Girl, let's celebrate them, and their desire to change the world.