What it Means to Be a Girl

This post is one of hundreds being published today in honor of The Girl Effect, a movement dedicated to supporting 600 million girls to change the world and create a better life for themselves, their families, and humanity. For more Girl Effect posts, check out the listing here. Growing up a girl isn't easy.

Growing up a girl in a poor family in Northern Minnesota isn't easy.

But, growing up a girl in sub-Saharan Africa is harder. Or on the Indian subcontinent. Or the Afghanistan steppe.

I don't know how it is to grow up as those girls. I only know my own experience.

It wasn't easy. Being different, being poor, being an outcast. Being a girl and not a boy. I wanted to be an astronomer. I wanted to study the stars and planets and be just like Hypatia when I grew up. I wanted to write books about the stars and the trees and the world around me like Annie Dillard.

But being a girl kept me from science, even in the end of the 20th Century, when we were so advanced and not practicing gender discrimination.

So when I think about girls in other countries, other worlds, who barely have access to education, I realize that being a scientist isn't what was most important to me. It was the ACCESS to information I craved. And I know that I am not alone in that craving.

And that's what The Girl Effect is about, for me. It's about giving girls access to education, to information, to options outside of what their families or religions might have them think are available. It's about making different choices, about giving an opportunity to a young girl to bring herself and her family out of poverty, avoiding early marriage and pregnancies, and creating a better world.

In my work as a storyteller and writer, I work to encourage women to connect with their authentic voice, the one hiding deep in their spirits, and bring that story forth into the world. By supporting The Girl Effect, I can help girls all over the world find their own voices to win the right to receive education, prevent child marriages, and keep themselves safe from HIV and other sexually-transmitted infections by understanding the risks and dangers of female genital mutilation and unprotected sexual activity.

So I encourage you to look at your own experience, and ponder: How can you make the world a better place for girls?

Because, when we make the world better for girls, we make it better for us all.