One of the great pleasures of being a part of the UNAC-Vancouver team is having the chance to discover our talented Lower Mainland youth and the difference they are making in the world. The following is a submission by 17 year old Anjali Katta, a student at York House School, on “What it means to be a girl”. Anjali delivered her message directly to the United Nations in New York this past weekend.
People tell me that girls are brought up to believe that they are less than. People also tell me to speak the truth. So that is what I will do.
I believe that girls are born believing they are equal but every single thing around them tells them they are less than. Don’t get your dress dirty! You can’t do that you’re a girl. If you’re a girl please jump off the smaller ski hill. You can’t debate, you’re a girl and girls get too emotional. These are all phrases that I’ve heard in my life and I can’t imagine what girls hear all across the globe. Heck, I was gifted bangles while my brother was gifted land—he was basically told to build, to leave his mark in the world and I was told to decorate myself.
And even though there is so much against a girl, she will persevere. Because a girl is just as capable and just as strong in ways that you can understand and in ways far beyond your myopic abilities of perception. A girl is, in essence, equal. Every girl is beautiful and smart and kind and clever and strong and unique and has an equal right to happiness, safety, and freedom. If we give a girl a chance, give her the tools to believe in herself and that she truly is just as capable, imagine how different the world would be. How many mothers would be able to teach their children to value an education. How many girls would be able to stand up in class and not care about the way she looks. How many girls won’t have to have their beauty equated to their intelligence.
Gender should not define opportunity and we owe it to the daughters of tomorrow to take a step back and look at each and every flaw in the system, be it major or infinitesimal, and do whatever we can to take down this inequality that is so fundamental in all systems across the globe. So the next time you see a girl, don’t tell her how pretty she is—tell her how smart, kind, clever, interesting, or the millions of other adjectives out there she is.
Happy International Day of the Girl!