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Celebrating Girl Power!

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IRC and Girl Scouts staff pledge to empower girls.

Every year, International Day of the Girl (IDG) is celebrated around the world to highlight the achievements of girls and challenges facing girls. This year’s theme for IDG is “EmPOWER Girls: Emergency Response and Resilience Planning”, which highlighted that girls are particularly vulnerable during crises, but also showing that girls must also be involved in building the solutions to these crises. The IRC in Phoenix hosted its annual celebration of International Day of the Girl on October 5th.

Ramina Johal, Information and Resource Coordinator and founding member of SHE, shares what she will do to empower girls. Photo: Stanford Prescott

The IRC, in the IRC 2020 strategic plan, identified narrowing the gender gap as a key outcome: "We will judge our success on whether we improve outcomes for all people, and also how we narrow the gap between men and women and boys and girls." Narrowing the gender gap is a priority in all of our work to build safety, health, education, economic wellbeing, and power for refugees. The annual IDG celebration provides an opportunity to reflect on our progress towards gender equality. 

The IRC in Phoenix has celebrated International Day of the Girl for 4 years. Stand Up for Her Empowerment, or SHE, is an internal group of IRC staff focused on gender equality who regularly hosts the IDG celebrations. Ramina Johal, a founding member of SHE, shared why this event was so important. ”When [SHE] formed in 2014, I encouraged members to identify one initial rallying point that had an international link." SHE members settled on recognizing IDG through an annual celebration. "This event was about celebrating the power and potential of girls, as well as challenges.”

This year’s celebration built on the successes of previous IDG celebrations. "We consistently aim to make girls visible to all staff, in all their roles: as parents, grandparents, siblings, cousins, friends, community members - in all aspects of our lives," said Ramina. "Over time, the celebration has evolved to build on earlier celebrations and ensure something to learn regardless of whether this is our colleague's first or fourth celebration."

IRC staff discuss the results of the power walk. Photo: Stanford Prescott

IRC staff discussed issues facing girls around the world and in the United States. Key to this discussion was a “power walk”, where staff were assigned characters with differing levels of power, such as a male government official or a female student. Staff were asked a series of statements in reference to their characters, such as “I am not afraid of walking alone at night” or “I am not exposed to violence in my household”. If their character would agree with that statement, they would take a step forward; if not, they would remain where they were. By the end of the exercise, differences were apparent. Some characters never moved, while others took steps regularly. Power varied between people, based on gender, but also based on age, wealth, and education. The power walk exercise provided an opportunity for IRC staff to reflect on privilege and power, and how that impacted programs. 

IRC Staff recite the Girl Scouts Promise and Law. Photo: Renee Stedman

This year, the IRC in Phoenix partnered with the Girl Scouts, Arizona Cactus Pine Council. The IRC previously partnered with Girl Scouts to run activities for the Refugee Summer Youth Camp. A number of Girl Scouts staff attended the IRC celebration, while IRC staff recited the Girl Scouts Promise and Law, which can be found here: http://www.girlscouts.org/en/about-girl-scouts/who-we-are.html

Participants in the IDG Celebration were asked to take what they had learned and put it into action, by making every day a “day of the girl”. Staff each identified one thing they would do to empower girls. Here are some of our favorite responses:

Advocate for access to healthcare and family planning.

Encouraging fierce strength, love, and friendship.

Use leadership to teach girls to lead themselves.

Organizing a workshop about domestic violence in my community.

Help my daughters to continue to change the world and my granddaughters to do the same.

Beth Anne Martin, New Roots Farm Specialist, and Dave Kurz, In-Kind Donation Coordinator, share their pledges to empower girls. Photo: Stanford Prescott

Encourage them to be excited about their future through relatable role models and new opportunities.

Make all girls believe in themselves and be more engaged in making decisions about their lives.

"By celebrating, we retain the power to be the change we seek in the world," said Ramina. As International Day of the Girl approaches, we ask you: What's one thing that will you do to empower girls?

Story by Stanford Prescott, Community Engagement Coordinator. Photos by Stanford Prescott and Renee Stedman.