Student organizations celebrate International Week of the Girl

Events and activities raise awareness for challenges girls face

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This poster displays the goals of "International Week of the Girl."

Anchita Khullar | Cavalier Daily

Monday marked the start of “International Week of the Girl” on Grounds, which is an extended celebration of the United Nations Day of the Girl that takes place Oct. 11. A week of events and activities is being hosted by Girl Up at U.Va. and United Nations Women USNC at U.Va. 

Events on Grounds include a “Who’s Your Girl Hero?” whiteboard campaign and a discussion with Jennifer Bowles, who is one of the youngest-ever elected officials in Virginia and the first African-American female vice mayor in Martinsville, Va. 

Fourth-year College student and Girl Up President Nivedha Kannapadi, who started Girl Up at U.Va. in January 2016 after learning about it at the U.N., said her organization fills a gap in the University community that focuses specifically on issues that affect girls, or the age group from adolescence to early college years. 

Kannapadi said she hopes the week will inspire the student body to take initiative in learning about issues that affect girls locally and around the world, whether that be through attending Girl Up meetings and talks on Grounds centered around girls’ issues, making donations to girls’ causes or just taking five to 10 minutes out of every week to research a problem pertinent to girls’ lives.

In particular, Girl Up engages with these topics through discussing University, local and global issues that affect girls through the pillars of education, health, safety and leadership and being counted. 

Globally, Kannapadi cited the poor quality of life for girls living in refugee camps as an issue worth consideration. However, Kannapadi also acknowledged that girls are currently facing many issues around the world, including access to both education and healthcare.

“Right now, we are going through such a large refugee crisis,” Kannapadi said. “Providing birth control or providing access to girls rights’ is often at the bottom of the agenda of a lot of refugee camps and agencies dealing with this because they want to focus on providing food, water, shelter, the immediate concerns.”

“A lot of times refugees are in camps for years, so if girls aren’t being sent to school, that’s like years of their lives, and education that they are missing out on,” Kannapadi added. “They might not be able to remake that up.”

Second-year College student and Girl Up member Hema Shah said she believes addressing girls’ issues begins with electing women to political office. 

“With elections coming up, the most important thing is representation,” Shah said. “Not necessarily just with women elected officials, but also with elected officials who will represent women’s issues.”

Even more locally, Girl Up’s new mentorship program with the girls at Walker Upper Elementary School has allowed Kannapadi and many other club members to become familiar with girls’ issues in the Charlottesville community.

“Talking to a lot of girls in our mentoring program, we’re seeing that being a girl is so much different now than when we were girls because they have social media,” Kannapadi said. “They use different platforms in different ways that we do, and, for example, I know that people send really inappropriate pictures over snapchat, and I know that our generation, or our age group, wouldn’t really do that.”

Kannapadi and Shah said they want International Week of the Girl on Grounds to be about celebrating powerful, inspirational women in the public arena and in students’ personal lives. 

In particular, the “Who’s Your Girl Hero?” whiteboard campaign prompted students to recall such figures in their own lives. 

While many students cited their mothers as their “girl heroes,” Zoe Grippo, a fourth-year College student and member of Girl Up, mentioned computer scientist Grace Hopper as her girl hero. 

Caroline Kirk, a first-year College student, identified Rachel Joy Scott.

“My girl is Rachel Joy Scott, the first victim of the Columbine High School shooting. She had this goal, this motto in high school — ‘Small acts of kindness and compassion can change the world,’” Kirk said. “She’s definitely someone I really look up to.”

Emily Hayes, a fourth-year College student and awareness chair for Girl Up, said they want the whiteboard campaign to raise awareness of powerful girls. 

“Our goal for the whiteboard campaign is to bring awareness that girls can be inspirational and powerful, and they should be considered important,” Hayes said. “We want women to think about how women can serve as examples of drive.”

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