by KelleyAnne Malinen, Chair of the Alexa McDonough Institute for Women, Gender, and Social Justice
First adopted by the United Nations in 2011, the International Day of the Girl Child is meant to amplify the voices of adolescent girls “from all walks of life who are boldly demanding action against discrimination, violence and poor learning opportunities” (Unicef, 2020). This is a day to look squarely at discrimination and violence confronting girls around the globe, and to be inspired by how girls rise to the challenges of their lives, changing the world in the process.
The Alexa McDonough Institute at Mount Saint Vincent University has celebrated the International Day of the Girl Child each year since 2017. From 2017 to 2019, 35 remarkable girls from our communities took to the stage at MSVU on October 11 to tell their stories and share their perspectives. I asked AMI’s events coordinator Cassandra McDonald to share some thoughts about the Day of the Girl. In her words, “The past Day of the Girl events brought in girls and women of all ages from across Nova Scotia. Every year we celebrated amazing girls’ accomplishments and talents in various fields such as science, dance, spoken word, singing, poetry, art, music, entrepreneurship, etc.”
Asked why it’s important to mark the International Day of the Girl Child, Cassandra shared that “according to Plan International, a significant percent of girls believe they are not as good as boys and come to think this way at a young age. Many have also never received mentorship and do not believe they have the same opportunities as boys. Statistics also show that girls self-confidence starts to plummet at 8 years of age.”
October 11 is a moment to affirm the power and potential of girls.
As Cassandra put it, “I have been inspired by girls every year through speaking with them, reading their poems and other written pieces and reading the evaluations. They have great insight and are creating change within their schools and communities. There is something powerful when you fill a room with that many girls and women that you believe that change is possible.”
To celebrate on October 11 this year, remind a girl she’s amazing! Please consider ordering a free copy of the second edition of International Day of the Girl for a girl in your life, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. This book, written by El Jones and illustrated by Bria Cherise Miller, introduces us to the powerful Nova Scotian girls who spoke at the 2017 International Day of the Girl Child. It encourages girls to believe in themselves and stand up for themselves. International Day of the Girl was published by the Delmore Buddy Daye Learning Institute (DBDLI) with support from the Alexa McDonough Institute, the Nancy’s Chair in Women’s Studies at MSVU, and African Nova Scotian Affairs.
“We know that supporting opportunities and spaces for stories to be shared is not only important but necessary,” says Sylvia Parris-Drummond, CEO, DBDLI. “We were thrilled to have worked in an amazing partnership to deliver the initial production. The reprint of this empowering poem and its paired illustrations continues to resonate as a treasured story. We hope it will be read not only during Women’s History Month, but during all months of many years to come.”
In welcoming delegates to the 2019 International Day of the Girl Child, then chair of the AMI Susie Brigham urged us all, “Champion girls and women around you. Learn about the good, brave and beautiful things girls are doing here and around the world for their families, schools, friends, communities, the environment and more.”
The Day of the Girl Child 2020 has been given the theme “My voice, our equal future.” In light of this theme, I invite you take a few minutes to explore writing by youth on the climate crisis at Our Future Our Story, a project of the Alexa McDonough Institute, and its partner Understorey Magazine. Among the texts you will find here are poems written by delegates at the 2020 Girls Conference.
The AMI looks forward to hosting an event that will provide a live platform for girls from our communities once again beginning in 2021. Please stay tuned for information about the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women (December 6th), and the next annual Girls Conference this spring, both taking place virtually.
Watch El Jones deliver a spoken word poem at the 2018 International Day of the Girl Child celebration at MSVU: