“I want every girl to know that her voice can change the world” – Malala Yousafzai.
On this exceptional day, the International Day of the Girl, Muslim Girl’s Founder and Editor-in-Chief, Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, spent her morning with Michelle Obama and a host of individuals driving real change, at the official launch of the Global Girls Alliance – the newest initiative created by The Obama Foundation. The former First Lady shared a stage with Today Show hosts, Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb, to introduce this initiative and emphasize its focus on empowering adolescent girls worldwide through education.
The event brought together celebrities such as Karlie Kloss, and Kelly Clarkson, as well as local community leaders, drawing attention to the impactful stories of those working tirelessly towards improving the lives of adolescent girls and their communities by paving the way to a better standard of living through education. (More importantly, access to an education.)
Around the world, girls are denied the right to self-sufficiency through education for a host of reasons: From a lack of access to resources such as scholarships and financial support, to strenuous or dangerous commutes; or antiquated ideas such as the belief that an education is wasted on a girl-child; that the presence of a girl outside the home is an abomination; or that their bodies aren’t their own, and that their voices aren’t worthy of being heard. In some circumstances, some girls fall victim to the idea that an educated girl is a threat to an oppressive hegemonic discourse.
These seemingly insurmountable hurdles are being overcome every day, perhaps not in quantum leaps, but through the actions and tireless day-to-day efforts of grassroots leaders who are working hard on the issues that surround the empowerment of girls through education. The Global Girls Alliance is looking to tackle these obstacles head-on by bringing together those leaders and a global network/platform for fund-raising. By facilitating the marriage of local grassroots leaders with a global network of voices and resources, the Global Girls Alliance is working to further empower leaders at the forefront of this commendable and critical cause.
The Global Girls Alliance initiative acknowledges that change happens on the ground, and that truly meaningful change occurs when we support those within local communities who show the drive and determination to facilitate an improvement in conditions. Grassroots leaders understand the unique challenges that girls face in their local communities, and possess a unique insight into the strategies needed to overcome these barriers.
By connecting these leaders to a network and providing them with a fundraising platform, the initiative elevates their voices and efforts, a concept that the #MuslimGirlClique is well-versed in. Here at Muslim Girl, we strive to empower our community through a platform designed to elevate Muslim voices, and through scholarship opportunities fashioned to encourage our future leaders to attain their full potential, sans having to worry about any financial hurdles.
Some of the globally-situated leaders that the foundation is working to empower include Vanessa Paranjothy from Singapore, the co-founder of Freedom Cups, an organization dedicated to the promotion and advocacy of reusable menstrual products for women; Trisha Shetty from India, the founder and CEO of SheSays, an advocacy group dedicated to empowering women to fight back against sexual violence; Dr. Jamila Razzaq, the Chief of Party for the Advancing Girls’ Education and Skills (AGES) program in Pakistan, an initiative run by USAid, who dedicates her spare time to running a girls-led mentoring network in her ancestral village; as well as Hawah Nabbuye from Uganda, who focuses on gender equity strategy for Educate! Uganda. The list of strong grassroots leaders is limitless, and their input invaluable, as acknowledged by Michelle Obama herself.
In her address, Obama elaborated, “…because of the outstanding work that’s been done for years by so many international organizations, the Global Girls Alliance is focused not on duplicating efforts or competing for resources, but on collaborating within the sector and building capacity for everyone.”
With the launch of this initiative, The Obama Foundation is echoing the idea that when we invest in a girl-child’s education, we aren’t simply investing in one girl’s voice, but in generational development. An investment in her education means empowering her, empowering her family, empowering the community that she stands for, and empowering the country that she hails from.
Currently, 98 million adolescent girls around the world are out of school, with no access to even the possibility of a formal education – a basic privilege that so many of us take for granted. This statistic is unacceptable. We all have the power, and the obligation to use our privilege and step up as champions for those who do not have access to a formal education. The Global Girls Alliance is bringing this idea to the forefront of the global stage. This initiative is elevating the voices that are doing good in the world. They are forming a community, a global network of warriors fighting for those who are not permitted a voice, or a seat at the table. In this, the Global Girls Alliance and the #MuslimGirlClique find themselves at the same intersection.
To learn more about this initiative and how you can raise your voice in support of this community, please visit: https://www.obama.org/globalgirlsalliance/