In Our Own Backyard
Meet Kate and Rita
Back in 2001, Rita Theil was juggling a gruelling workload in investment banking in the UK with her role as a busy mother to two children under five. Enough for anyone, you might think - but not for Rita. Acutely aware of the unequal opportunities and lack of mentorship that young women were facing in her industry, Rita determinedly set out to break through traditional barriers by creating the Citibank Women's Mentor Initiative. In 2003, she rolled the program out to Citibank offices across the world.
Seven years later, back home in Canada, her spirited 10-year old daughter Kate made her own mark on behalf of girls as a prize-winning public speaker. The speech that won her acclaim at her school competition is entitled "Because I am a Girl". Rita and Kate are the ones. They are changing the world – because they are girls.
Kate got involved with the movement after she saw a commercial. "When I heard the line 'because she is a girl, she only gets the leftovers', I thought it was not only sad but really true – and most people don't even notice this. They think life's OK here in Canada and they don't realize just how different it is for girls in other places. I want to get people to open their eyes. My speech was a way to wake people up."
Most of the other speeches in Kate's public speaking contest were themed around humorous topics; hers was the only really serious speech. "A lot of kids seem to think helping girls around the world is all grown-up stuff", says Kate. "But actually it's not! Anyone can do it if they want it enough! I think I can really make a difference."
A line from the prize-winning speech reads: "Because she is a girl in Afghanistan, she lives under threat for going to a school." Kate feels passionately that education is both a right and a privilege. "Some kids, they complain: "Oh man, I've got tons of homework!" I tell them they should be so lucky to be able to go to school and get homework at all!" Kate got the information for her speech from the Because I am a Girl website, and also from her Mom. "My Mom gave me so much support and knows so much about this subject," Kate says proudly. "I've learned from her that girls are equal. We may sometimes be a little shyer, but we're just as strong as boys. We can do anything."
"I want my daughter to be a successful woman," says Rita, "rather than think she needs to be like a man as was so often the case in my industry. I now run my own business, but I'm working on getting a women's mentorship program into other financial organizations. I am very excited about getting involved with the Because I am a Girl campaign as it takes mentorship to a whole new level!"
At Kate's eleventh birthday party, all her guests received Because I am a Girl T-shirts along with their loot bags. This mother and daughter are spreading the word. They are changing the world – because they are girls.
See other fundraising ideas for girls