Empowering girls, empowering everyone


They are the largest minority. They are beaten. They are raped. They are discriminated against and left behind. They are born into and give birth to a world in which they are encouraged to be chained, a world in which they are the new majority, yet still face the will of the old order.

Feminist thought and activism however, is bringing gender equality to fruition.

Coinciding with National Coming Out Day, Oct. 11 is also International Day of the Girl Child. Tomorrow will mark the first annual observance of the day, passed in a resolution by the United Nations (U.N.) Dec. 19, 2011.

“With International Day of the Girl Child coming, it is a good time to be focusing on the plight of girls around the world—even more so with us being an IB school,” ESOL teacher and Feminist Club sponsor Catherine Mounteer said.

The Annandale Feminist Club was started by alumni Hilla Haidari with Mounteer two years ago.  The club has created billboards that display facts about the unjust experiences females face over the world, and why they matter statistically. Last year, they partnered with student-run nonprofit Circle of Women and raised about 200 dollars to help young women overseas.  Circle of Women has an emphasis on giving girls educational opportunities and allowing aspiring students to be leaders and organizers through grassroots activism.

AHS is especially involved in understanding and acting upon the injustices experienced by women and children. Because of the cultural diversity here, students have witnessed gender abuse and discrimination in various countries.

“In China, most people want to have boys because they are believed to be stronger. People who have girls sell them to other parents for marriage or other sexual purposes. They should not be used and seen as reproductive tools; they deserve respect and love,” senior Jin Huang said.

Their plight is not just physical and sexual, however; the inequality is rooted deeper into the body of society.

”I come from a country that is dominantly a patriarchal society. I want women in third-world countries to have at least a right to education. A girl is still expected to get married and take care of the house in India,” senior Maitri Shree said. “ When my mother was in India, she never worked, but here she does.”

Both Huang and Shree have similar beliefs and are planning to be leaders in the Feminist Club to continue their work with Circle of Women worldwide.

“We are thinking of having movie nights concerning women’s rights to show real life people having unjust experiences and present during the Just World Festival,” Shree said. They will also try to assist on International Day of the Girl Child by participating in the Proclamation Project with School Girls Unite by petitioning the mayor or other representative to formally recognize Oct. 11 as International Day of the Girl Child.

According to the U.N., the day was established to recognize “the empowerment of and investment in girls, which are critical for economic growth…including the eradication of poverty and extreme poverty, as well as the meaningful participation of girls in decisions that affect them, are key in breaking the cycle of discrimination and violence and in promoting and protecting the full and effective enjoyment of their human rights.”

To raise awareness about the day, the U.N.,  along with  School Girls Unite (a national non-profit advocacy organization dedicated to empowering young women) are encouraging students to ask their local city and town councils to proclaim Oct. 11 as International Day of the Girl Child. A petition is currently being signed to push the president to recognize a National Day of the Girl Child.

As written in the petition, activists want girls to have “the freedom to be [themselves], to be seen as equals in the eyes of others, and to know [they] are equals in [their] own minds.”

“Everything starts with education and if women don’t know their rights, they cannot fight for them either. I think Feminist Club can encourage people here at AHS to support this cause so that we can raise enough awareness about the issues,” Shree said. “We should forget about the traditional roles of men and women and start giving women equal rights and treatment in today’s modern society.”

Students Taking Action Now Darfur (STAND) is also organizing to act on Oct. 11 by asking the administration to announce the International Day of the Girl Child and National Coming Out Day and putting up posters. Human rights in general will be a new focus for the club this year.

“Because social networking websites like Twitter have such a great impact, we will state the facts to the world that day, because so many are misinformed and so many injustices overlooked,” STAND Co-Presidents and seniors Daniel Critchfield and Andrea Melendez said.

It seems like awareness is the door to equality in the world, and education the key.

“If a country educates women, they have educated a generation. Women in most developing countries need and deserve the same opportunities as men. Women deserve to be treated equally; if there were no women, there wouldn’t be a human race,” Huang said.