One month ago, numerous students across the country dreaded their return to school after summer break came to a close. Sixty-two million girls around the world faced a starkly different reality.
On September 26, First Lady Michelle Obama launched the #62MillionGirls campaign during the 2015 Global Citizen Festival in Central Park, New York, with the goal helping girls and young women worldwide gain access to education. To raise awareness for the issue, Obama encouraged the audience to post a photo on Twitter or Instagram captioned, “In school, I learned ____. #62MillionGirls don’t have that chance.” The photos become part of the campaign’s “yearbook,” a collection of the tagged posts that can be found on the campaign website.
The #62MillionGirls campaign is a part of the White House’s “Let Girls Learn” initiative, a U.S government movement that promotes education for girls around the world. According to the United States Agency for International Development, “Let Girls Learn” aims to help adolescent girls overcome common barriers to their education, such as school fees, long and unsafe commutes to school, being forced into marriage, lack of healthcare, and the absence of support for pursuing education.
Along with “Let Girls Learn,” the organization Girl Rising has teamed up with the First Lady in support of the #62MillionGirls campaign. On a local level, Watchung Hills is playing a part through its Girl Rising Club, a part of Interact recently founded by current junior Vrinda Goel. In an interview, she tells The Arrowhead about Girl Rising, the #62MillionGirls Campaign, and how Watchung Hills students can get involved themselves.
How did you get involved with Girl Rising?
I’ve been with Girl Rising for approximately a year now. I saw their documentary following 9 girls in different countries about their education struggles, and it really touched me. I applied to be a regional ambassador to raise awareness about their cause in communities like ours, and just went from there.
What made you start a club for Girl Rising in Watchung Hills?
As a regional ambassador, my primary aim is to ensure the bigger, global message that Girl Rising has to offer reaches communities like ours. Schools are the best place to make this happen because we’re the ones who define what progress will mean for the next generations. Mrs. Kelly has been so supportive in making this happen, and she suggested that we make this a part of the Interact Club at WHRHS.
What do you hope to achieve this year and the next?
For the next two years, my biggest goal is to help bridge the gap between our community and the ones these girls live in-that’s what the documentary was aiming at. We’re privileged enough to never second guess the fact that education is a right. Girls in other countries don’t get that right, and the primary reason is because of their gender. Hopefully, that strikes people as irrational, because it definitely is. International Women’s Day is a great way to make people stop and think about the simple aspects of life that are denied to girls in other countries just because of their gender-and it’s not just limited to education! The right to speak out, bodily autonomy, and economic independence are amongst the long list of rights they are denied, again just because they’re women. Hopefully we can use International Women’s Day as a way to incentivize people to get involved in this cause. I would also love to screen the documentary for the entire school, there’s so much to take away from it.
What are your thoughts on the #62MillionGirls campaign?
The #62MillionGirls campaign is a great start to get people to recognize that this issue actually exists, and the impact it has on the international community. Education is the most powerful tool we can give girls to empower them for the better, and this campaign is a wonderful way to start getting the message out there. Again, it’s just a start though. We have so many people pledging their support, now the next step is to see everyone take action.
What’s one thing that you’d want every student in Watchung Hills to know about Girl Rising?
Girl Rising was created as a solution on how to end global poverty. It was quickly found that the simple, elegant solution with the highest return in investment, was to educate the girls out of school. This isn’t just about “feminism” or civil rights, it’s a step towards the overall progress of every nation on this planet. Again, these girls are denied going to school simply because of their gender! The society around them expect them to be mothers and caretakers at a young age instead of a student. In fact, the leading cause of death amongst teenage girls on a global scale, isn’t car accidents or drug abuse- it’s childbirth.
Another thing that’s important to emphasize is that it doesn’t take a massive donation to change these girls’ lives. People have a misconception about non-profits, that huge amounts of money are the solution. While that may be true in some cases, it just isn’t here. Awareness is also key, recognizing this issue is huge and it needs to be fixed. Yes, we have glass ceilings to break right here in America, but we need to progress as a world together, and we need to help these girls catch up to where they should be. They should be running for president, becoming professionals, and supporting themselves, not fighting for the right to step foot in a schoolhouse. As for the monetary aspect, just $35 alone can support one girl’s education for an entire year! Now just think about what we could accomplish if every student and faculty member at Watchung Hills put 50 cents towards this cause. My bottom line is, it doesn’t take much to make change.
The last thing I have to say is that Girl Rising is NOT just for girls to become involved. Male involvement is just as important, because it says that this isn’t just a campaign about females empowering each other; it’s a global statement saying that everybody believes in equality, period.
For Watchung Hills students looking to get involved with Girl Rising, please contact Vrinda Goel at [email protected]