How to Build Movements: What I’ve learned from girls and women

In the past few years we have seen waves of powerful movements wash over countries, regions and the world. From the #MeToo movement that shed light on sexual harassment and assaults to the global climate strike started by a lone teenager Greta Thunberg, we’re witnessing girls and women on the forefront of activism for human rights, social justice, gender equality and climate action. 

So, how do you build a successful movement? What can we learn from the girls and women who have led impactful movements of change around the world?

There are a few things that I have taken away from the women and girls that I look up to who have recently made significant strides to make this world a more just, equal and safe place. They inspire me to stay on course and I hope that these learnings can inspire you to also be an unstoppable force for good. 

1. Know the facts and speak the truth

“Sometimes I have a competition with myself to find the most absurd conspiracy theory. Because they go after things like my personality and how I am, how I look, how I behave. That is just a sign that you are winning and that they don’t have any more arguments to go after you. They cannot argue, because I am only saying what the science is saying. You can’t argue against physics.” says Greta Thunberg in this incredibly inspiring interview with Naomi Klein by The Intercept. She speaks about how she prepares her speeches with help from experts and how she manages trolls, because she knows the facts. Greta has become one of the world’s greatest truth tellers. 

2. Share stories and speak to the heart

We need to know the facts, but for far too long, that has not been enough. It is more often the stories that move you to act, because they speak to our hearts and help us identify our common ground as people. Malala Yousafzai was shot by the Taliban for wanting an education. She was one of 66 million girls worldwide who was deprived of an education. When she stood up and shared her story, and the stories of others, a global movement for education was born. 

Sharing our stories are powerful. The #MeToo movement spread like a wave of unburdening a deadly silence. Women shared stories, exposing secrets, trauma and shame that they had carried alone for years. Somehow, simply saying the words ‘me too’ was a relief. Yet sharing stories publicly can be traumatic. Tarana Burke, founder of the #MeToo movement, spoke at the Women Deliver conference this year. She said that each of us have the power to decide if, how and where to tell our stories. 

Do you want to share your story? Go to SayItForward.orgthe platform where every woman & girl is encouraged to share her remarkable and unique story of overcoming the fears, personal beliefs, or circumstances that have held her back. Through the power of storytelling, Say It Forward celebrates the strength, determination and triumphs of girls and women on their path to empowerment.

3. Find solidarity for your movement

“Black People, I love you. I love us. We matter. Our Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter.”

This was the post that Alicia Garza, the co-founder of #BlackLivesMatter, wrote on Facebook as she wanted to find love in a place that was hurting in the aftermath of the murder of Trayvon Martin. Alicia, together with Opal Tometi and Patrisse Cullors founded a movement to create space for people to tell their stories, to collaborate, to strategize and to build power to break free. There is strength and power in working together, and we are not put on this earth to do the work alone. 

4. Manage your anger and your wellbeing

You have the right to be angry. You have the right to react. When we are dealing with injustice, abuse, discrimination and intolerance, we have the right to feel our emotions. Yet, when it comes to creating a movement of change, we must learn to manage our anger and communicate clearly with others. I had the opportunity to ask the question about how to deal with anger to Ailbhe Smyth, the leader of the pro-choice movement that lead to an overturn of the anti-abortion legislation in Ireland. This movement was led by compassion and not anger.

“I really don’t think you can deal with people who are, themselves, very angry.” says Ailbhe Smyth, former director for Together for Yes. Listen to her talk about how to build movements, recorded from my phone from the press conference at Women Deliver 2019. 

Our emotions are not our enemy (something that I am trying to teach myself). This is true, even when we speak to global leaders. An absolutely brilliant example of this is Greta Thunberg’s speech at the United Nations. She is fueled with emotion, yet she is clear in her message to world leaders: ‘How dare you?’ 

“When I am around too many people, I just shut off my brain, in a way to not get too tired, because I cannot take everything in. It’s hard to be the center of attention; I don’t like that. I have to tell myself it’s for a good cause. I am trying to say something with all this attention, to use my platform to do something good.” – said Greta Thunberg in this interview with The Atlantic. 

When pushing for a cause a lot greater than ourselves, the burden is large – and sometime too heavy a load to carry. We need to find spaces for self-care and solidarity. With the rise of mental illness, depression and burnouts, our prioritizations need to be reflected upon from time to time. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. 

We want to support your movement – will you support ours?

All of these girls and women, and so many many more, are leaders that are changing the world and showing us how to build movements of impact. Yet, only 1 in 4 people heard or read about in the news are women. To make things worse, women and girls are objectified and marginalized in media, making our struggles even more difficult.

At Girls’ Globe we want to change this! We amplify the voices of girls and women to strengthen human rights, social justice and gender equality. We are here to support the movements you want to build, create more space for your voice to be heard and make a dramatic shift in the global online media landscape. 

Here are ways you can be a part of this movement of ours: 
  • Share your movement with us and let us help you amplify it! Contact us here.
  • Raise your voice. Share your perspective on things happening in your community or around the world. Your voice matters. You can become a blogger here
  • Become a member organization. We invite organizations that work to strengthen the health and rights of women and girls, or women-led movements to become members of Girls’ Globe. That we we can help amplify your work and your organization takes a strong stand for the voices of women and girls worldwide. Find out more!
  • Subscribe and share posts by women and girls worldwide. The more our traffic grows, the more the world wide web will see the voices of women and girls as an authority in their rankings of the overflow of media content online. When you share a post, you’re not only sharing that post, you’re helping women and girls to be heard in this overly crowded Internet of ours. Stay up to date here and engage with us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter
  • Make a donation. Our organization is not powered by ads or by investors, we are young women led media movement, and all the support we can get matters. Consider giving up a coffee each month and make a monthly donation to Girls’ Globe instead. In the world of internet trolls, Cambridge Analytica, climate deniers, and fake news – your donation really makes a difference. Donate today!

We’re still learning about how to build movements of global positive change, and we hope you will join us on this journey. Girls’ Globe is truly about solidarity and amplifying the positive change makers that inspire others to act. We know that our stories and our voices matter and we know that yours does too. 

5 Things I’ve Learned from Malala Yousafzai

Today is Malala Yousafzai’s birthday. As an activist, advocate for girls’ education, champion of human rights and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Malala’s words and actions offer inspiration and hope to people all over the world.

In 2012, a Taliban gunman shot Malala as she travelled home from school. She was 15-years-old, and had already been advocating for girls’ right to education in her home country of Pakistan for several years.

One year later, on her 16th birthday, Malala gave a speech at the UN that cemented her position as one of the most inspiring, influential and important young people alive today. In the 4 years since that speech, Malala has turned personal passion into a powerful international movement working to transform the future – not only for girls and women, but for the world at large.

The same summer that Malala spoke at the UN, I graduated from university. In the years since that speech, I have been working to build my career in gender equality and human rights. As I’ve done so I’ve tried to learn as much as I can about what it takes to create change in the world and what it means to be successful.

Some of the most invaluable lessons I have learned so far – in both my professional and personal life – have been from the women I admire and look to as role models. Women like Malala.

And yes, she may be young, but the world seems finally to be getting the message – underestimate young women at your peril. I believe there is so much we can learn from Malala Yousafzai, and so in honour of her birthday, I’ve made a list of 5 lessons she’s taught me in my career so far!

1. Speak up

“We realise the importance of our voices only when we are silenced.”

It can sometimes be easy to take the freedom to raise my voice, and especially the freedom to do so in safety, for granted. Malala reminds me that there are millions of girls and women without that luxury, and if we can do so must use our voices to make sure that that those who are silenced can be heard.

2. Be brave

“There’s a moment when you have to choose whether to be silent or to stand up.”

Malala’s story is one of immense courage. She has continued to fight for what she knows to be right in the face adversity that many could scarcely imagine, and she stands up time and time again against fear and threats and violence. Her bravery encourages me to be more bold and her refusal to give in to fear reminds me that I should do the same.

3. Be determined

“I’m just a committed and stubborn person who wants to see every child get [a] quality education – who wants to see women having equal rights and who wants peace in every corner of the world.” 

No matter what else is happening around her, Malala never wavers from her commitment to girls’ education. I often feel frustrated when it seems that change happens far too slowly – but Malala shows me the value of dedication and conviction.

4. Be knowledgeable

“None of the nine biggest countries in Africa, Latin America and developing Asia have increased their education budgets. Several are even making drastic cuts, putting more girls out of school.”

Malala’s knowledge when it comes to her cause reminds me that if I want to change something, I have to understand how it works in the first place. It’s clear that Malala understands the issues facing countries around the world preventing girls from accessing education, and it’s that knowledge that makes people listen up and take her seriously.

5. Be humble 

“I tell my story not because it is unique, but because it is not. It is the story of many girls.”

Despite her many achievements, awards and fame (she is the youngest person ever to win a Nobel Prize) Malala always speaks and acts with kindness, grace and humility. It might not be specific to work in gender equality, but it’s a quality I admire and try to replicate all the same!

Feeling inspired? Follow Malala on Twitter, make a donation to the Malala Fund, watch He Named Me Malala or check out her interview with David Letterman

Malala Day 2014: What are you #StrongerThan?

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. – Nelson Mandela

Today marks the second annual Malala Day. Malala Yousafzai and two of her classmates were shot by Taliban gunman on their way to school in Pakistan in October 2012 (for being girls and for wanting to get an education). After surviving the traumatic encounter, Malala did not fear school, but instead has become a global icon for promoting pacifism and everyone’s right to education.

Malala says that the extremists fear the power of education, and courageously asks, “Let us wage a glorious struggle against illiteracy, poverty and terrorism. Let us pick up our books and our pens, and let us shield ourselves with unity and togetherness.”

According to UNESCO, global literacy rates are on the rise, however, currently two-thirds of illiterate adults (493 million) are women. Among the 123 million illiterate youth, 76 million are female.

Even though the size of the global illiterate population is shrinking, the female proportion has remained virtually steady at 63% to 64%.

UNFPA reminds us of the far-reaching effects of educating girls. Education for girls is one of the most effective ways to reduce poverty. Not only does education create opportunities for individuals, educating a girl improves her family’s opportunities and health outcomes for generations. An educated women can secure resources for her family, access to education for her children, and is less likely to have unintended births. Educating girls also generates positive social and economic development.

According to the Population Reference Bureau, “education contributes directly to the growth of national income by improving the productive capacities of the labor force.” A study of 19 developing countries found that a country’s long-term economic growth increases “by 3.7 percent for every year the adult population’s average level of schooling rises.”

Countries that have made social investments in health, family planning, and education have slower population growth and faster economic growth than countries that have not made such investments.

This Malala Day, Malala does not want us to forget that we are stronger than those who threaten the right to education. Stand with Malala and the others who are fighting for women’s education by tweeting that you are #StrongerThan.

Meet other girls like Malala who are fighting for their right to education from around the globe here:

To learn more about the importance of educating girls, watch the following TED Talks:

Visit these organization’s websites to learn about how they are working toward improving education for women and girls:

Featured image courtesy of Flickr user Michael Volpicelli

 

Can a girl change the world?

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons
Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Throughout history we have witnessed social and political transformations achieved through the collective actions of others and often led by the vision of an individual. As stated by Margaret Mead, American cultural anthropologist,

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, concerned citizens can change world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.

The version of history we are taught in school would have us believe that all important changemakers were men and that women had very little to do with the advancement of civilisation. However, we know this is completely false.

Women have changed the course of history in all realms of humanity. All across technology, economics, health, the arts, social and civil change, sports, education, science and religion, you will find female pioneers leading the way.  Women have affirmed an enduring place in history as a result of the diligent commitment of our foremothers such as Emmeline Pankhurst – Suffragette leader, Angela Davis – political civil rights activist, Emilia Earhart – first female aviator to fly across the Atlantic, Maria Montessori – physician and educator, Alice Walker- author, Babe Didrikson Zaharias – athlete and Mother Teresa – religious humanitarian leader. Historical female political changemakers include but are not limited to Cleopatra, Empress Toshi-ko of Japan, Catherine the Great, Mary Queen of Scots, Joan of Arc, Queen Nanny of Jamaica, Queen Nzingha of Angola in addition to contemporary leaders such as Presidents Isabel Peron, Joyce Banda, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf or Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher, Mary Robinson, Indira Gandhi, Pratibha Patil, Benazir Bhutto. The list is endless.

Today, women and girls continue to make history around the world. Take Malala Yousafzai, the 16-year-old Pakistani education activist who, in 2012, was shot by the Taliban on her school bus for speaking out about the importance of girls’ equal access to education. Malala survived the attack and, as a result, sparked an international campaign to ensure girls’ equal access to affordable and quality education. Through her small act of writing a blog for the BBC, Malala shared with the world the realities faced by thousands of girls in rural Pakistan. Today, Malala is hailed as a champion of girls’ rights to education and was recently nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. However, Malala is not the only girl making her mark in the history books.

In the global effort to end child marriage, various civil society groups, governments, NGOs, women, girls, men and boys are writing a new history with women and girls at the centre.  A group of Bangladeshi teenagers known as Wedding Busters are taking positive action to change the minds of parents in their community with the aim of making their region a child marriage free zone. In Bangladesh, 66% of girls are married before they reach the age of 18, often depriving them of a chance for an education and condemning them to ill health and economic hardship.

Wedding Busters is comprised of both girls and boys; girls who were at risk of child marriage act as advocates for other girls. In a video produced by Plan International, Sonhita, a 13-year-old girl who was married three years prior and now has a six month old baby, aspires to provide a better future for her daughter. Sonhita shares that she will ensure her daughter stays in school so as not to deny her of her dreams. Girls like Sonhita are the real game changers and history makers.

Can a girl change the world? Yes! But not alone, she must have the support of others as only through collective action is change truly possible.

Cover image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons. 

25,000 Women for Malala

Photo Credit: Global Partnership for Education/Sarah Beeching on Flickr
Photo Credit: Global Partnership for Education/Sarah Beeching on Flickr

October 9th marks the one year anniversary of Malala Yousafzai’s attack. To read more about Malala, her courage and her inspiring work that has followed the brutal attempt on her life, check out Girls’ Globe blogger Emma’s post: Malala Yousafzai: One Child, One Teacher, One Pen and One Book can Change the World. In the last year, Malala has become a representative for women and girls everywhere and a champion for girls’ right to education around the world.

Now it’s your turn to become a champion for girls and women.

The goal is to fund 25,000 women before October 9th, the one year anniversary of Malala’s attack.

Image: DoSomething.org
Image: DoSomething.org

DoSomething.org and Kiva have formed a partnership to honor Malala by empowering young people between the ages of 13 and 25 to help give away 25,000 micro loans of $25 to fund female entrepreneurs in Malala’s honor. You must be a new registered user on Kiva.org in order to use a $25 free loan.

The campaign aims to engage youth in the fight to end poverty by inspiring them to act and make a difference through an SMS-based platform that teaches the participants about the real-life challenges women in developing countries face, and allows participants to fund female entrepreneurs through free micro loans. This is your opportunity to be involved. 

To give out a free $25 loan and read more about how it works, visit the DoSomething.org campaign!

You can also help and support the campaign by spreading the word!

Post this on Facebook and Twitter:

@DoSomething & @Kiva have partnered to give teens $25 microloans to fund women in need to #HonorMalala. Learn more: dosomething.org/women

Stand up for Malala and women’s and girls’ rights all over the world!  #HonorMalala! Text WOMEN to 38383 now.

Malala Yousafzai: One Child, One Teacher, One Pen and One Book Can Change The World

On October 9th 2012 – less than one year ago – Malala Yousafzai, then a fifteen year old Pakistani girl, was shot by the Taliban when she was on her way to do what girls and boys her age are supposed to do – to go to school, to learn, and to get an education. For some, educating girls and women is a threat. It is a threat to the status quo, and to existing patriarchal norms and practices that place girls and women below men and boys in societies. Educating girls and women is seen as a threat for a simple reason:

Because there is no single force in the world that is stronger than the power and capabilities of an educated girl.

Malala1Today, on her 16th birthday, Malala stood up in the United Nations General Assembly Hall to call on governments, societies, families and individuals to deliver on their commitments and promises to the girls – and boys – around the world, and ensure that every single child has access to free and compulsory primary education. I was present at the speech, and watched her voice resonate not only with the youth from around the world who took over the General Assembly on this special day, but with every single person in the room.

Her strongest message was a message of peace, tolerance and incredible bravery. Her voice without a sign of uncertainty, Malala declared that her call and her commitment is for all children – including the sons and daughters of the Taliban – and through her speech, demonstrated such strength and such forgiveness, that the rest of us can only aspire to one day reach even close to her level.

Dear Friends, on the 9th of October 2012, the Taliban shot me on the left side of my forehead. They shot my friends too. They thought that the bullets would silence us. But they failed. And then, out of that silence came, thousands of voices. The terrorists thought that they would change our aims and stop our ambitions but nothing changed in my life except this: Weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born.  I am the same Malala. My ambitions are the same. My hopes are the same. My dreams are the same.

Being shot did not make Malala an inspiration or a hero – she was an incredible person and a role model before the Taliban tried to silence her. While her voice is stronger than anyone else’s, and reaches further than we can imagine, it is also important to remember that Malala is also a child – and her own rights, as an individual, as a girl, and as a child, must not be forgotten as she becomes the beacon of girls’ and women’s education around the world. There is no doubt about her capabilities, and the endless strength she possesses – but at the same time, we should not make her into a tool or a product of something we deem “greater” or “bigger.” Malala deserves all of our attention, our help, our support, but most importantly she deserves our respect. In the midst of all this attention on her, I think those things are also important to keep in mind.

Malala is a girl who was prevented from fulfilling her true potential because of discriminatory, patriarchal practices and beliefs. She is the Girl who could not go to school because she is female, the Girl who lived under threat of violence largely because of her gender,  the Girl who is expected to stay silent and bow her head because some people view her as inferior to men. She is the Girl we all need to remember tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after – on every single day, not just today, not just now. On October 11th – two days after the anniversary of her shooting – the world will celebrate the International Day of the Girl Child. For Malala, and for others like her, we need to make every day the Day of the Girl. We need to teach our sons and daughters to believe in an equal world, teach our students to value human life the same, despite gender, age, race, ethnicity, age. We can all can catalyze a change in this world towards a reality where no girl has to fight the kinds of wars Malala fought, and no child has to lose their life because we, as societies, failed to protect them. Gender discrimination cannot be eliminated without a collective effort to truly change the way we see girls and women, and teach the generations to come to behave differently and to hold different kinds of values and norms – the kind that support and promote full gender equality, and accept nothing less as success.

Malala is nothing but a hero. She is the incarnation of why the fight for girls’ rights is so terribly important. She is a role model to not only girls, but to boys, women, and men. There cannot be any more Malalas, and children cannot be left to fight these wars anymore. There is no more time to wait for progress or change to happen – it has to happen now, and it has to start with all of us.  Every day should be the Day of the Girl, because Malala, and all the other girls in the world, deserve nothing less. Malala is raising the bar for all of us, and it has never been raised higher – now it’s time for us, as societies, as individuals, to rise to the challenge.

I raise my hand, and my voice, for Malala and for Girls’ Education. Will you join me?

Blogger Emma Saloranta raises her hand for girls' education
Blogger Emma Saloranta raises her hand for girls’ education