In Our Own Backyard
19-year old Canadian takes the Day of the Girl to the UN again
The campaign for the creation of the International Day of the Girl has taken some big steps! On October 12, 2011 we made another trip to the United Nations, along with Status of Women Minister Rona Ambrose.
Part of the Because I am a Girl team was Girl Speakers Bureau member Saba. A second year student at the University of Western Ontario, Saba takes every opportunity to speak up for gender equality. She first represented Because I am a Girl at the UN Commission on the Status of Women in March 2010.
Just weeks earlier on September 22, Minister Ambrose presented the Day of the Girl petition on Parliament Hill. At the UN, she brought the cause to an international audience, asking the General Assembly to declare September 22 the International Day of the Girl. The following evening, Plan co-hosted a reception where Minister Ambrose, Plan CEO Rosemary McCarney, and Saba , spoke to over 50 key UN Diplomats.
Saba had the crowd’s attention right away with a vivid analogy: “My name is Saba. I have no title to my name. I am just a girl. I want you to picture me placing a huge stone wall in front of you. There is no way to climb it or go around it. Essentially you’re trapped and invisible. ‘Why me?’ you ask. What if I told you it’s just because of your gender? Wouldn’t you feel helpless and vulnerable? This is how many girls feel every day.”
Saba continued describing the barriers faced by girls all over the world. Although Saba grew up in Stoney Creek, her family is from Iran. She specifically described the challenges her mom faced in her home country, where girls and boys simply don’t have the same choices.
“Girls’ issues are not just for girls to deal with,” she told the gathered Diplomats. “An International Day of the Girl could help end global poverty.”
She left the audience with a sobering truth: “All women were once girls, but not all girls will become women.”
Saba said it was a privilege to be at the UN with Minister Ambrose, who taught her that there is always something you can do to help, and that even a small step towards your goal is remarkable in itself.
Asked about the people who have helped to shape her goals, Saba credited another extraordinary woman as being her greatest teacher. “My mom is the strongest person I know,” she said. “She taught me to never give up, to follow my dreams and always strive for my best. When one door closed, she helped me to find that other open door I couldn’t see – and now I know to always look for it.”
Saba urges girls across Canada to look for open doors and find ways to make a difference for girls around the world. “They can start a Girl Club at their school, do a presentation, raise awareness in their community and write to their MP about a Day of the Girl.”
Saba said many other countries are following Canada’s example and igniting interest about the cause: “There’s tons of great feedback coming from all over the world!”
She also said she noticed a much greater level of awareness this time around about the Day of the Girl. “Everyone seemed interested and supportive and there was a lot more positive feedback from the audience.”
When Saba completes her studies, she hopes to continue her involvement in international development. She plans to become a dentist, and plans to spend time working in developing countries, to provide care for those who can’t afford it.
She will be a brilliant example of just how much girls and women can achieve.
To quote a line from Saba’s speech: “On an International Day of the Girl, all would come together and break down those walls that girls have faced just because they are girls.”
Start a Girl Club in your school!