Girls fuel outrage and inspiration

by Shari Graydon

I don’t often shout back at the TV, despite the vast volume of material it broadcasts that I find vile or banal. But last week I couldn’t help myself.

The object of my fury wasn’t Fox News or Sun TV, it wasn’t some retrograde beauty pageant, exploitive reality show, or a crime drama featuring a multitude of victimized women (respecting the fleeting nature of life, I avoid those.)

Instead, my outburst was precipitated by two words uttered by Peter Mansbridge.

CBC’s The National had just finished airing Anna Maria Tremonti’s interview with the inspirational Malala Yousafzai about her campaign for girls’ education — initially in Pakistan, but now around the world.

When Mansbridge re-appeared on the screen, he innocuously referred to this campaign as “her cause”, and I found myself shouting at the TV through tears:

“It’s not just HER cause, it’s the WORLD’S cause!”

Of course, what I meant was, it SHOULD be the world’s cause. And I want everyone to be as outraged as I am about the colossal cost and profound unfairness of failing to educate, support the equality of, and benefit from the gifts and contributions of millions of girls.

Then today, I came across a 2-minute video from the UN featuring dozens of girls from around the world looking into the camera and declaring:


I was not put on this earth to be invisible.

I was not born to be denied.

I was not given life only to belong to someone else. I belong to me.

I have a voice & I will use it. I have dreams unforgettable.

I have a name and it is not anonymous or insignificant or unworthy or waiting any more to be called.

Some day, they will say: this was the moment when the world woke up to my potential.

This is the moment I was allowed to be astonishing.

This is the moment when my rising no longer scares you.

This is the moment when being a girl became my strength, my sanctuary, not my pain.

This is the moment when the world sees that I am held back by every problem and I am key to all solutions.

We so need to help make them right. And one of the ways we can do that in North America, where so many of us are extraordinarily privileged in a multitude of ways — not the least of which is to have access to decades of exceptionally good education — is to speak up ourselves.

We should be ashamed not to. Like living in a democracy and having the capacity to vote, our educational attainment — the knowledge and credibility it gives us — cannot be taken for granted.

Not as long as we share the planet with 250 million girls for whom those rights are denied.

What might you speak up about? Where? And when? Who might you help educate or enlighten by exercising your voice? By making the best possible use of your privilege?

And what would those girls, denied such basic rights, say about women who have such access to education and the means to communicate their knowledge more broadly, but fail to take advantage of it?

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