“Cheese,” we scream in the middle of Times Square as we unabashedly pose for the selfie stick.
In the legendary selfie that followed, you’ll see Augustine from Uganda with his soft demeanor, yet powerful presence. You’ll then see Aminah, flaunting the beautiful African dress she made herself. On the right, you’ll see Johnnie draping her arms around Sofi and Vicky from El Salvador, girls whose hearts are bubbling with love. And then finally in the corner, you’ll see a 5’ 1’’ (and 3/4, mind you) Indian girl whose ear-to-ear smile is unable to encapsulate the happiness teeming within her.
This is a selfie of Plan International USA’s “Because I am a Girl” youth delegation—a diverse group of individuals drawn together by a common goal of ending gender inequality. Over the course of a week, I had the privilege of getting to know these inspiring people. Despite our cultural and language differences, we were able to share endless laughter, have countless thought-provoking conversations, and create memories that I will cherish for the rest of my life. But most importantly, we were united by our passion to end gender discrimination.
It was this raw passion that each of us exhibited during the celebration of International Day of the Girl. It was an exhilarating experience to have our voices heard at so many different events and by so many other people who shared our vision of achieving gender equality. But not only did we have our voices heard, we also got the opportunity to hear what other people had to say. It was incredibly eye-opening to hear the stories of advocates from all over the world. Their experiences allowed me to better understand the nuances of the issues girls are facing everywhere. Additionally, these inspiring speakers showed me how even one person has the power to bring change—even in the face of complex issues.
As Rebeca Gyumi from Tanzania put it: “A girl with a dream is fire.”
And, I have a dream of bringing gender inequality to an end. So watch out, for I’m about to light the world on fire.