Did you know that March is Women’s History Month? What an amazing chance to celebrate the amazing things women have done! Not only is March a great month to learn about incredible women, but we also have a chance to celebrate as Girl Scouts during Girl Scout Week (March 7-13), including celebrating Girl Scouts’ Birthday on March 12. Perhaps the icing on the cake of Girl Scout Week is that International Women’s Day also falls during that time, on March 8.
International Women’s Day is a global celebration of the achievements of women. The very first celebration of International Women’s Day was held in 1911, over 100 years ago! In the early 1900’s there was a lot of movement by women to overcome the gender oppression and inequality they were experiencing. In 1908, women really started to become more vocal in coming together to champion change on issues such as better pay and voting rights. The rise of women challenging inequalities was seen across the globe, and spurred the idea of celebrating an International Women’s Day.
As a young girl I loved watching the Disney movie Mary Poppins, and in that movie there is a scene where Mrs. Banks comes home in a whirlwind singing about fighting for women’s rights. I used to feel so empowered by her excitement and passion for the cause, even before I truly understood what the suffragettes stood for. Now as an adult, I understand the inequalities that women faced, and still do face. I felt similar energy and passion when taking women studies courses in college, when reading about incredible women in history and in the news today, and I feel that energy every day as a Girl Scout celebrating the achievements of girls.
The theme of International Women’s Day for 2021 is “Choose to Challenge”. The International Women’s Day website says “A challenged world is an alert world. From challenge comes change. So let’s all #ChooseToChallenge.” What a great reminder of where this day started and where we are now. Without our ancestors choosing to challenge voting rights and pay gaps and so many other inequalities, we as women would not have nearly as many opportunities as we do now. Their challenge to society has given us so much, but there is so much more we as women can do for the generations to come. I have a few favorite women that I would recommend learning about, who are continuing the work that generations before us started, and are creating new history every day.
Greta is an 18 year old who has been making big waves. She has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize three times…three times! She has caught the attention of many leaders worldwide by speaking up about climate and environmental concerns. Gaining the attention of important world leaders may seem daunting, and I’d have to agree. But what is incredible about Greta is that her platform started with convincing friends and family to make changes to lessen their carbon footprint. From there she organized strikes at school and gave speeches to rally more people. Greta also has Asperger’s Syndrome, and I think she is the perfect example to show girls that they are capable of achieving great things, no matter what type of hurdles they may think they have to overcome.
Emma survived the shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018. It would have been so easy for her to never go back to public school, to let the fear of her experience run her life. Instead, she managed to funnel the anger, sadness, fear and confusion that she and her classmates felt into not just a single speech, but into creating an entire movement advocating for gun control. She, along with a few classmates, co-founded the group Never Again to continue the fight for gun control. Regardless of political views, I think it is incredible that Emma took such a horrifying experience and channeled the energy she felt from that experience into doing something to help other students and schools.
Sonita is currently 24 years old, but her incredible work to help girls started when she was only 16. Living in Afghanistan, she very narrowly avoided being sold into marriage, by her own family. Unfortunately, her situation is not unusual in many countries. In protest of this practice, Sonita wrote a rap song called “Brides For Sale” and shared it on YouTube. Her video went viral, and has since created international buzz, and prompted girls to speak out about their own similar experiences. Sonita continues to spread awareness about forced child marriage, and while it is an upsetting topic to learn about, her work empowering other girls to fight for an end to this practice is so inspiring!
In 2012, Malala was very seriously injured in an assassination attempt. The Taliban had taken control of her small home town in Pakistan, and banned many things, such as owning a TV, playing music, and girls attending school. There were extremely harsh punishments if anyone defied them. Malala loved going to school, and started to speak up against the ban keeping girls from going to school, and even found ways to continue going to school. On her way home from school one day, a gunman boarded her school bus and shot her in the head. Instead of this experience silencing Malala, she worked closely with her dad to create the Malala Fund, and has worked to fight for every girl’s right to go to school ever since. More than 130 million girls worldwide are not in school today, and I love this quote from Malala, stating that she tells her story “not because it is unique, but because it is the story of many girls”.
19 year old Danielle found her passion in designing circuits and animatronics. When she realized that STEAM education isn’t available to everyone, she founded STEAM Connection, an organization to provide affordable and accessible STEAM materials to underserved students. Her robot, EKGAR (Every Kid Gets a Robot) has since been given to 4,000 kids at no cost! Danielle says of her passion, “I want girls to know they can find their superpowers, pursue what they love and help others.”
Anna Lumsargis- York County GSHPA Girl Scout
Anna worked with the York History Center to update their archives on past women’s history in York County as well as address the role of women in York County play in the present in all aspects of leadership, cultural awareness, and service. The York History Center identified that they needed help providing updated information and accessibility to the information, so she created a website focused on highlighting the women of York County in history, and created a documentary-style video highlighting current influential women in York County.
These girls are incredibly inspiring, and I encourage you to read more about the work that each of them are doing to help girls and women across the world. I think it is so important to celebrate their achievements on International Women’s Day, but also to celebrate that we as girls and women are capable of so much. Even the smallest action starting at home can turn into worldwide change, as many of the girl’s above demonstrate! Happy International Women’s Day, don’t ever lose sight of the incredible things women can do!