Originally published on The Huffington Post.
When I was a little girl I dreamed of being a super hero. In my imagination, I would fly to remote places and use my strength to help other people. One of my favorite “super powers” was being invisible, while the second was the ability to speak any language. On my “adventures” I would galavant to Southeast Asia across Africa and through the United States using these super powers to create change. In my youthful opinion, the world was waiting for me to help solve issues such as hunger, inequality and brokenness. I fought valiantly to encourage peace in conflict and promote equality among diverse people groups.
As a young woman, my imaginative adventures are now a reality. I have had the opportunity to travel to Cambodia, India, Uganda, Indonesia, Malawi, Ethiopia and other far away places around the world. Throughout my travels, I have met incredible people that have changed my life. I have sat with real, some would say, unlikely heroes. These heroes work every day to create change in their communities. Who are they?
From Southeast Asia, across Africa and throughout the entire world young girls are boldly making a difference for their sisters, brothers, friends, family and nations. They are girls in India, rescuing their sisters who are among millions being held captive as sex slaves in brothels.
Young girls’ who against all odds are turning goats into a sustainable way to bring education to other girls in their communities.
I think of Girls’ Globe blogger, June Eric-Udorie who at fifteen is a strong activist against the practice of female genital mutilation of whom 140 million girls and women are subject to the practice each year. I think of girls like Memory Banda who is working in Malawi to stand up against child marriage where five out of every ten girlsare married before they are eighteen. Other girls, I have met, work tirelessly to provide hope to those struggling in conflict and healing to those recovering from traumatic experiences.
What are their super powers?
Education. Healthcare. Clean Water. Nutrition. Peace. Strength. Love. Determination.
These courageous young girls, are often undervalued and not recognized in society. Young girls face many villains in their fight for equality, peace, and dignity. Threats of violence, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, being denied an education and lack of quality healthcare are among the giants they have to tackle. Despite the challenges young girls face, they continue to fight with dignity. I count these girls as my sisters, friends and inspiration. Young girls are hope shining brightly in some of the most difficult places.
Today, as we celebrate the United Nations’ International Day of the Girl Child let’s remember one thing: Girls should be celebrated and recognized as heroes every day. Today and every day, I will continue to stand with them. As a global community, we have an enormous opportunity to provide a platform for their stories to be heard. We have the ability to work alongside of these young girls and shift the conversation. Working with them will ensure that girls’ health, rights and empowerment will be a priority now and in the years to come. Change will not occur until the global community recognizes the power of a girl to assume leadership positions, affect policy change, hold global leaders accountable and be at the center of her own change.
Girls are the future.
I have been privileged to know amazing, fun, tenacious and spunky girl heroes all over the world. It is their stories that propel me to continue to raise my own voice and global awareness about their health and well-being. I value knowing that each day I am able to support these amazing girls who truly are on the front lines of change.
Follow the hashtag #IDG2014 and participate in the online conversation.
Follow Diane Fender on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@Diane_Fender