Three ordinary girls doing extraordinary things
This year, on the UN International Day of the Girl, we celebrate girls and young women worldwide with the theme ‘my voice – our equal future’. In the last decade, girls have been speaking up like never before, partially enabled by the combined power of mobile technology and social media. Mobile access is providing women and girls around the world with the education and information they need to feel empowered, and giving them a platform from which they can raise their voices.
Launching the campaign, UNICEF said: “As adolescent girls worldwide assert their power as change-makers, International Day of the Girl 2020 will focus on their demands to: live free from gender-based violence, harmful practices, and HIV and AIDS; learn new skills for the futures they choose; and lead as a generation of activists accelerating social change.”
Who are some of the young women speaking out and changing the world? Let’s look at them Each of these girls has successfully harnessed the power of mobile technology to build movements that have real-world impact. Viral moments allow them to get their message out there, as they build online communities that can further their causes.
In 2012, 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai was shot by the Taliban for speaking out on girls’ education and survived. Malala was forced to leave Pakistan, but continued to speak out on girls’ education. Together with her father, she created the Malala Fund, an international not-for-profit to champion every girl’s right to 12 years of free, safe, quality education. Now 23, Malala is a graduate of Oxford University and the youngest person to ever receive the Nobel Peace Prize. Malala says she continues to tell her story not because it is unique but because it is common. Malala has 1.6 million followers on Instagram alone, where she regularly posts about the issues she’s most passionate about. The International Day of the Girl reminds us of the power of educating girls, empowering them and hearing their voices.
Over the last 18 months, most of us have become familiar with Greta Thunberg, a teen climate activist from Sweden. She created Fridays for the Future, a weekly protest that she began sitting outside the Swedish parliament instead of attending school. The school climate strike has since spread all over the world, putting young people’s voices front and centre of the climate debate. In a landmark address to the 2019 UN Climate Action Summit, she passionately asked the world leaders assembled to hear her speech “How dare you?”
Greta, who has Aspergers, was named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people and earned two consecutive nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize 2019 and 2020. But not all the reaction has been positive; with science on her side, instead of debating her on the issues, critics have focused on her personally, including television personality Piers Morgan mocking her on his show.
With more than 10.5 million Instagram followers, Greta uses her phone to connect with a global audience. Greta’s activism once again shows that giving ordinary girls a powerful platform can have a global impact – and with bushfires raging around the world in 2020 alongside an increase in freak weather events, the world needs as many voices like Greta as it can get.
When 17 of her classmates were shot dead in a horrific high school shooting in the US, then 18-year-old Emma Gonzalez became a gun control advocate. A powerful speech she made at the March for Our Lives included six minutes 20 seconds of silence, the length of the attack on her school. She vocally criticised politicians who take money from the powerful American gun lobby, the NRA, saying: “you’re either funding the killers, or you’re standing with the children.” The speech by Emma went viral as her peers all over the US and around the world shared it, and that resulted in a number of changes to gun law in Florida.
However, Emma has also received criticism from the American right, including elected public officials. Attacks have focused on her appearance, ethnicity, and gender identity, showing there is still much room for progress in how society responds to young female voices.
“Giving girls a platform and amplifying their voices makes the world a better place; as does having equal rights to bring about positive change.”
Empowering and inspiring
While these three inspiring examples are now household names, young women are everywhere and Ding enables them, through the power of connectivity to speak out and use technology to connect with people to deliver their message. Giving girls a platform and amplifying their voices makes the world a better place; as does having equal rights to bring about positive change. But the criticism they often receive for doing so is a stark reminder of why these campaigns exist.
The UN International Day of the Girl reminds us that every aspect of our lives, from politics to business to sport and in our homes, women’s voices must be heard. This diversity of thought is vitally important and as a mum to a 10 year old girl (who wants to be an inventor, vet and writer…the list goes on!) it is my job to stand behind and promote the power of these young voices. Here at Ding we celebrate girls and young women, believe in the power of their voices and want to enable them through connectivity.