INTERNATIONAL DAY OF THE GIRL: What Empowered Girls Can Teach Us

Today, any place can turn into a war zone at any time. From Syria to Las Vegas, as well as Bangladesh and Miami, it’s not just from man-made violence, but also from Mother Nature-made destruction.

I experienced this first hand, simply flying from South America to the United States. Unfortunately, it was via Miami International Airport 2 days before Hurricane Irma was predicted to land and destroy everything in its path. Although the connecting flight out of Miami was scheduled to depart on-time when I boarded the flight to Miami, it was cancelled by the time I landed in Miami.

The airport became a war zone. I was among the 6.5 million people who were told to evacuate the area and yet, there was no way out. All foreseeable departures were canceled. And unlike other weather-related flight cancelations, there was nowhere to go to weather the storm, literally. Hurricane Irma predicted no future, only the present – a catastrophic, unprecedented storm. It was in fact was the longest lasting powerful hurricane ever recorded, worldwide.

That’s when a fellow fear-riddened traveler snapped me out of it, reminding me what I do, who I work with…

I am the Founder of 4Girls GLocal Leadership (4GGL), a social change movement to transform an insidious mindset that devalues, demoralizes, dehumanizes girls – into a new paradigm that realizes:

Empowering girls is our most powerful force for change.

I started 4GGL because our world needs a revolution for girls. Worldwide, we have killed, aborted, or neglected to death more than 100 million baby girls simply because they were a girl. Even if girls live, the insidious mindset treats a girl inhumanely for the rest of her life. That is, she can be married off when she is just a child – 12, 10 or even 5 years old. If not, she becomes a domestic servant for her family or another family.

Furthermore, horrendous practices like female genital cutting and honor killing still exist today. In 2017, it is unimaginable that a young woman is killed and by her own family simply because she chose the person she loves. Moreover, terrorists like Boko Haram and ISIS have tribal practices which enslave girls and young women.

What’s remarkable is that when empowered, girls and young women are powerful beyond measure. They control the number, health and education of their children. They also contribute significantly to family income and national economy. And they help to build stable and resilient civil society which is fundamental to good governance.

Girls empowerment isn’t just about a better future. It’s also what they can teach us – right now – in our terror-prone, empowerment-needing world.

Empowerment is fear transformed

4GGL Women’s Empowerment Survey of Millennials around the globe revealed empowerment as the “can do” factor. It’s going from “I cannot” do/change something to “I can” do/change something. And whether in poor countries or wealthy ones – Afghanistan or USA – the #1 contributing factor to young women’s empowerment is self-awareness or “knowing who you are.”

And the most powerful exemplars of empowerment are those in wars. 4GGL surveyed young women facing the worse humanitarian crisis in modern time – Syrian Millennials, refugees and immigrants. Spanning nearly 20 countries across the globe, including USA, Europe and the Middle East, 3 core traits of empowerment were unveiled from this powerful group: hope and resilience, aspiration, and accountability in concert with finding help.

Hope and Resilience: Even after 6 years of civil war from hell, Syrian young women believe their life and Syria can change.

Aspiration: They have personal and/or professional aspiration they are actively pursuing. Nearly one-third wish to become an agent of peace, specifically.

Accountability and Mentorship: The majority our Millennials take responsibility in creating a brighter future for Syria. They go to school, develop skills and expertise, and wish to return to Syria to rebuild their country. Half have a mentor or adult supporter, and those who don’t wish for one.

<em>“I have a responsibility to develop myself and return to develop the next generation who can continue its
“I have a responsibility to develop myself and return to develop the next generation who can continue its development and advancement.” Survey Participant

So empowering girls isn’t just good for the world. According to the United Nations Population Fund, our future depends on it. October 11th is the International Day of the Girl and this year, it is calling us to action.

My life’s mission is to hear girls’ voices, collecting empowerment data in every country to illuminate their inner power, beginning with those at the frontline of violence and war. This isn’t just for them. It’s also for me – what they teach me about riding out a catastrophic storm.

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