On International Day of the Girl, I'm thanking all the little girls who remind me to hope in the face of injustice
October 11th is International Day of the Girl, which the United Nations describes as a day for remembering that “empowerment of and investment in girls [is] key in breaking the cycle of discrimination and violence and in promoting and protecting the full and effective enjoyment of their human rights.”
The chaos of the current political climate can really leave us feeling less than hopeful. But, strangely, I now have more hope for the betterment of society than ever. Mostly, my new high expectations seem to come from the girls in my life, and on this year’s International Day of the Girl, I want to celebrate their power, imagination, love, and wonder. So…
I know that the world seems pretty scary right now. I’m scared sometimes, too. But the impact you’ve had on my life and on the world in general is amazing. The hope you’ve offered me is restorative, and I want you to understand the power you have.
I’ve always been hip to the magic of girls, but my daughter, Loki, made it personal. The future felt limitless the moment she was born. As she grew, I felt like I was raising my own best friend. Imagine the unlimited support and love that BFFs are famous for bundled into a tiny body. That’s what it’s like with Loki.
As tiny as she is, her bravery has always surprised me. The things I’ve long feared—putting myself out there, approaching others, trying something new—were effortless to my daughter. And she’s made me want to be as brave as she is.
Because Loki’s life is sure to be full of adventures, and I hope to always follow.
In many ways, my sister was my first baby. Born just a year and a half apart, we lived our childhoods in perfect sync. I have memories of calling her “Sissy,” teaching her to read, and worrying for her more than I did for myself. In return, the little girl she once was trusted me explicitly. She taught me the bonds of absolute loyalty, even when things became difficult between us later in life. My little sister taught me to expect that there is always a place for absolute faith in uncertain times.
My nieces tumbled into my life courtesy of my sister. Wild and rambunctious peas in a pod, they remind me of my sister and me when we were girls. Their sisterly bond is a lovely example of the fact that we can’t get through this world alone. We need each other. We need our sisters, even when my own sister and I eventually experienced those periods of animosity—a little more than sibling rivalry, but a little less than civil war. Being mothers ourselves has unexpectedly repaired that rift, so watching my nieces enjoy their sisterly love gives me hope that mistakes we make in the past can be corrected.
A benefit of having a little one is that you live vicariously through them. When I enrolled Loki in Girl Scouts, it was a chance to reclaim something I’d missed in my childhood. But when I became a troop leader, I never expected to care about our girls as much as I now do. I see them grow taller over the summers. I teach them, listen to them, and guide them. It hasn’t escaped me that I’m actively watching a whole generation of girls become young women. They have given me an ambitious gift: the privileged ability to help them navigate that journey.
As a socially conscious person, I always wanted my kids to have the same activist spirit. But defending what’s right can be dangerous. Knowing the violence that we can face when speaking up, were protests the right place for a child? Considering that social injustices are heavy topics, was it right to include my kids in the dialogue? Mari Copeny and Malala Yousafzai didn’t have the option of sitting out. These girls found themselves both in the middle of two very different injustices. For Mari, it’s the ongoing, years-long battle for clean water in her home of Flint, Michigan. For Malala, it was the fight to continue her education after the Taliban took control of her Pakistani hometown.
When faced with these injustices, both girls had a similar approach—they got involved; they fought back.
These girls understand that the only way to change the world is to put in the work.
Despite violence or ridicule, they aren’t afraid to fight back. Mari and Malala’s ability to use their voice for the betterment of humanity gives me hope in the next generation of activists. It inspires my activism in my own home.
My mother and I suffer from a strained relationship. It’s improving as we work through our demons, but the roots of our issues stem back to her childhood. I wish that I could have been the kind of friend my mom needed back then. When my mother was an abused and neglected little girl, she faced hardships that are too shocking to type out. Still, she survived. She found my father and saved him as much as he saved her. She didn’t let pain caused by the people who should have loved her the most stop her from fully loving others.
That little girl grew into a woman who gives me hope. My mom showed me that if I go through hell, I can come out better on the other side.
And there are still so many girls who give me hope for a better world. To the women creators who started off as little girls doodling with crayons or dancing on their tiptoes: Because of you, I know that our stories will continue to be told. I know that the arts will always have a place in our world. To the women athletes who started off of as little girls with skinned knees and a champion’s heart: Because of your persistence in the face of challenges, I know that women will one day no longer be labeled “the weaker sex.”
To the women in STEM who started off as little girls gazing up at the stars or taking apart household appliances: Because of your command in your fields, I know that women will continue to break down the sexist barriers put in our way.
To the little girls who grew up to be phenomenal women, to the ones who will, and to the ones who never got the chance, I see you.
The road ahead may be getting scarier, but there are so many of you who remind me that I’m not alone. That the rest of the world is not alone. And I hope, after reading this, you realize that you aren’t alone either.
A former little girl