Looking for a reason to celebrate October 11 other than it finally being Friday? How about the Second Annual International Day of the Girl?
Created in 2011 by the United Nations to “recognize girls’ rights and the unique challenges girls face around the world,” the Day of the Girl provides a yearly opportunity to celebrate the progress made in enabling education, equality, and empowerment for girls around the world. It’s also a chance to re-energize as we realize how much more work needs to be done. We’re bombarded with the need for action everywhere we look, from the horrific shooting of fifteen-year-old Malala Yousafzai for going to school while female to inappropriate Halloween costumes leading to the overt sexualization of girls as young as three. Drawing national and global attention to these problems is the first step in enacting positive change.
In an exciting move, the government of New York City declared October 11, 2013 the city’s second annual Day of the Girl. This is no small stage for a thoughtful discussion: in a city with a population of over 8 million and an enormous corporate and financial presence, this year’s events in NYC have the potential to reach an enormous audience and expand the conversation about girls’ lives and rights.
There are tons of organizations making the move to New York for the event, bringing their own messages and activism to the streets of Times Square. Let’s take a look at a few…
Not only on the Day of the Girl but every day, the Brave Girls Alliance (BGA) draws attention to the portrayal of girls in media, whether this be television, movies, or retail. Created by Melissa Atkins Wardy and Ines Almeida, BGA speaks out against the pigeonholing of girls into clear-cut, pink-and-sparkly princess-shaped hypersexualized categories. While there is nothing wrong with a girl playing dress-up, clothes and makeup are not the only things a girl can be interested in. Girls are unique, independent, and capable of much more than this homogenized, sexualized representation.
On October 11, BGA will be moving from your computer screen to a much larger one: namely, a billboard in Times Square, on the corner of 43rd street and 7th avenue. For seven days beginning on Wednesday, this crowd-source funded board will project messages using the hashtag #BraveGirlsWant for retailers, media outlets, marketing groups, and passersby to see. With more than 1.5 million pedestrians visiting Times Square daily and the headquarters of media and toy companies a stone’s throw away, what better place to show the world what girls really want?
BGA has been generating buzz even before the billboard goes live, attracting supporters like Oscar-winning director of Brave Brenda Chapman, Miss Representation, and (of course) Adios Barbie. As Ms. Chapman says, “Sure, it’s a lofty goal to affect change with regard to media portrayal of women and girls. But our daughters deserve it. They have the right to a healthy and carefree childhood.”
For more information about the campaign and how you can get involved, go to www.bravegirlswant.com.
SPARK is also getting involved in the Day of the Girl festivities. An organization run by girls aged 13 to 22, SPARK works to end sexualization and commodification of girls in the media through collaboration and activism. They are teaming up with the NYC Girls Project, who has created an advertising campaign that as of Monday is running on buses and subways throughout New York City.
The ads are geared towards building healthy self-esteem in girls, combatting all of the other advertising and media they see every day that tells them that beauty is only measured by how they look. The project emphasizes how girls aged six or seven, barley even in elementary school, often struggle with body image issues and how important it is that they don’t place their value on their appearance, but rather on their inner self. For instance, the website cites the fact that 80% of 10-year-olds fear being fat. Obviously, there is need for this initiative.
The NYC Girls Project has also created a curriculum: “Full of Ourselves: A Wellness Program to Advance Girl Power, Health, and Leadership,” which is an education campaign for girls ages ten to fifteen to help boost self-esteem, positive body image, and body satisfaction. The curriculum had great success in its trial stages this summer and will be taught in more than 200 NYC schools this fall.
SPARK’s part of this initiative is geared towards media literacy and education. Along with the Paley Center for Media, they have created two classes, “Girls, Body Image and the Media” and “A Brief History of Girls on Television” that will be available to school groups in the New York City area. This is a huge triumph, considering that there is very little media literacy education in the United States, even though the United States is the largest consumer of media in the world.
If you want to get involved in this campaign and join the conversation, use the hashtag #ImAGirl on Twitter and tell the world what you think about this campaign, spread the word, or share your own personal message of solidarity.
Activism for the Day of the Girl isn’t limited to those in New York City, though. During the days leading up to the summit, iTwixie, Sage Girl, and UGG Australia have been putting on an event called 11 Days of Action. Each day in October, followers are presented with a different way to speak up for independent and powerful girls and women all over the world. Activist activities range from nominating a nationally known female hero to pledging to compliment girls based on their skills and knowledge, not their looks. And as if this weren’t good enough, each day you participate in the challenges, you can enter yourself to win a free pair of boots, donated by Uggs. What’s not to love?
The International Day of the Girl is an opportunity for women and girls, men and boys, people from anywhere and everywhere, to make their voices heard and speak out for girls’ rights. The events in New York City this Friday are a great start to the conversation, but we can’t afford to let that be the end of the effort. Together, let’s pledge to keep working until every day is a day for girls!
Image via the New York City Girls Project