On Day of the Girl, I wonder, what kind of future are we leaving for them?
Today is International Day of the Girl Child (IDOTGC), a day founded at the United Nations to recognise girls’ rights and the unique challenges girls face around the world. For me, IDTOGC is a day that somewhat 'balances' International Women's Day. Women's Day to me has always felt like a celebration, a day to pay respects to trailblazers in the feminist movement look back at how far we have come, and look forward at how we can continue to fight for women's issues into the future. But IDTOGC has always had a shade of sadness to me.
It's not that I don't want to celebrate girls like I celebrate women on Women's Day. It's more that I feel worry and fear for girls who are yet to enter, or in the midst, of a time in their lives when they will discover the inequalities of the world, the injustices, the fact that they will be treated differently to their brothers, fathers, and male friends and peers, most often by these men and boys in their lives.
When I look back to my time as a girl, I feel incredibly blessed. Blessed to have lived a life of privilege, which I still benefit from. I had not a care in the world as a child. As a girl. Part of that was luck, part was ignorance, and part was the aforementioned privilege. It is only with hindsight that I look to girls of today and feel the worry and fear that comes hand in hand with this day.
One of the failings of the feminist movement is the subsects of people who think we are 'done'. The people who think we have achieved the evergreen equality our foremothers fought for. Women, at least in the Western world, have every opportunity their brothers do. We have access to education and a vast range of jobs. We can choose motherhood or opt out. We can marry or not. But there are simple luxuries we still are not afforded.
We cannot go for a solo walk or run after dark. We cannot stop the moment of adrenaline when we're in an elevator alone with a man. We cannot rely on laws and legislation that we're told will keep us safe. We cannot know discrimination won't affect us. We cannot trust freely. And a natural response to this might be, 'well, of course you can, you can't live in fear,' or 'I run at night, my neighbourhood is safe,' or even 'you can't assume all men are going to threaten or harass you.' And all of them have merit. But here's the painful and heartbreaking truth: if we get it wrong, we could die.
And that's a piece that's often missing. It's a piece men don't always consider. It's a reality we don't want to tell our girls. Because it's awful, and I wish it wasn't true. But that's the key: I wish. And wishes, hopes, and dreams aren't enough. Wishes don't give women and girls freedom. Hope doesn't keep us safe. Dreams are not a reality we can bank on.
On International Day of the Girl Child, I am worried. But I do have some of that hope, some of those wishes, I still dream those dreams of a different future for girls. It's a dream that's coming into focus, very slowly, the way progress always comes. But it won't come if we just hope and wish. We need to act, and we need to fight. We need change on every level to guarantee our girls a free and safe future. A future where they can do big things and enjoy small luxuries. A future where a little mistake can be just that.