Today is the International Day of the Girl, an international observance day declared by the United Nations since 2012, born from a campaign by Plan International. While the day was declared to call attention to the issues and obstacles girls face around the world, FRIDA also believes that it is important to celebrate girl activists and the girl-led organising that is conquering rights and opportunities for girls and their communities around the world.
Today, on the International Day of the Girl, we take the opportunity to ask two FRIDA Girl Advisors, Khensani and Ludmila, what inspired them to become activists at a young age and what motivates them and girls around them to continue to fight for girls’ rights. Since its inception, FRIDA has been committed to supporting meaningful girl participation in its governance. In 2017, we expanded our Advisory Committee by welcoming girl activists from 5 regions where FRIDA funds, as an extension of our commitment towards advancing meaningful girl participation in FRIDA’s governance as well as towards increasing funding for girl-led groups and more visibility of girl-led activism.
“On one hand, my mother inspired me to become a feminist and to fight in this movement. She has been a feminist for 20 years now, and has always made me see the importance of women’s rights. She is the one who invited me to start organizing and gave me the knowledge of what is feminism and how to practice it everyday. Now we share many things together. And the other thing that inspired me was the context in which I live. The protest #NiUnaMenos in 2015 was one of the first protests that I went to myself with my high school. To have to yell #NiUnaMenos because of the rates of femicides that are increasing everyday really moved me, to have to go to the streets for the different types of violences that we suffer moved me, to realize the inequality that we live with our compañeras moved me, to be able to insist on more rights such as legal, safe and free abortion moved me.
I think that what inspired my compañeras to continue fighting is the hope and desire to be able to live in a world that is more feminist, that is more just for all. It is to know that things can change, and to see that feminism is a tool of transformation. The desire to live with greater equality of rights and opportunities moves us. We have in front of us the whole history of what women before us fought for, conquering fundamental rights such as the right to vote, and we are sure that we are going to fight for more rights for the women who come after us, such as the legalization of abortion, and also that these women and girls are going to fight. Feminism opens your eyes, and you realize so many things that we had learned are sexist – to see the possibility that this can change also moves us.”
– Ludmila Marínez Catinari is based out Buenos Aires, Argentina and is in the last year at Carlos Pellegrini high school. Ludmila is an active debater who takes part in school debates and also took part at the National Meeting of Women in Chaco province and calls it a memorable experience. She is fluent in Spanish and English and tweets as @luudmc.
“When I was first introduced to activism, I was 12 years old, and I remember how shocked I was to learn that most of the things I had as a girl – access to education, freedom to choose what I wanted for my life, and just feeling safe in my neighborhood – were privileges that only a few girls had. It hit me really hard. For all those years, I had been completely oblivious to the reality most girls faced around the world. So at first, it was a sense of duty mixed with responsibility that inspired me to advocate for girls. And for many years, it was this feeling of duty that moved me, and I felt that it was my duty to give voice to the girls who couldn’t speak up for themselves. It wasn’t until very recently when I started to realize that I am not just giving voice to other girls, but I am also giving a voice to myself and always have from the very start. I thought back to my experiences and how my work as an activist has shaped me into the person that I am today and has helped me overcome my own challenges. Deep down, my inspiration has always come from the desire to break free from my own chains as I help other girls set themselves free as well.
One thing that I feel very strongly among girl activists is the personal connection to the cause.Regardless of how girls became activists, one of the common things we all or at least most of us share is a connection to the cause that goes beyond empathy or a desire to do good to other girls. Girls are inspired by their own lives and personal stories to continue fighting for girls’ rights and empowerment and extend this fight for other girls around the world. But more than extending the fight, it is first a fight to break our own chains. We are all breaking our own chains as we go and helping other girls break theirs as well, so we can all be free.”
–Khensani Charllot Nhambongo, 19, is from Mozambique, and graduated from Harrison High School in Michigan, USA last year (2016). She is currently studying Computer Science in an online university – University of the People. She has taught English in a small school in her community and volunteered as a Math, Chemistry and Physics tutor during high school. She is fluent in Portuguese and English, Portuguese being her native language, and reads and understands a bit of Mandarin.
Today, and everyday, we should celebrate girl activists and their dedication to girls’ rights and the communities that they represent serve. Happy International Day of the Girl!
FRIDA and Mama Cash have collaborated to produce a participatory, feminist, intersectional research entitled “Girls to the Front: A snapshot of girl-led organizing’. It places girls at the centre of the study, and showcases the brave and innovative organizing led by girls around the world and features perspectives of girl advisors from five different countries with diverse backgrounds, profiles and skills. Curious to learn more? Watch this teaser video! Together, we will launch this research on Monday, October 15th, 2018 – so watch our social media and website to read this unprecedented research.