By: Bharati Ganesh
At “International Day of the Girl Speak Out” on October 11 at the United Nations, equal rights activists from across the country gathered to watch performances, celebrating girl power and engaging in discussions about reaching marginalized women. Dignitaries working to promote women’s rights gave speeches praising girls succeeding in the face of discrimination and hardship.
Members of North’s newest club, We for She, were in the audience watching the activities. Junior Nitya Labh, vice president of the club, said, “It was one of the first events that we wanted to attend. We thought that it would help generate more interest in the club and make people feel more empowered and connected to the issues that we work to address.”
As a chapter of Girls Learn International, We for She, abbreviated WFS, aims to raise awareness about the hardships women face in developing nations. Chapters across the country partner with local schools to advocate for universal girls’ education and raise funds that support those initiatives. Last June, the club collaborated with Hands Across the Water to host a Run Against Rape that highlighted America’s endemic rape culture and the prevalence of sexual assault. Junior Janu Tatachar, secretary of WFS, said, “One goal we have for our members is to talk about not only feminism, but [also] human rights in general. Our club also examines educational and racial inequality.”
At North, WFS fosters a safe environment where students are able to have frank conversations on gender inequality and feminism. Officers organize activities for each meeting that allow club members to consider the common challenges faced by girls of every culture and socioeconomic status, and find solutions to those issues. Some topics discussed include catcalling and femicide. Junior Kriti Verma, vice president, said, “It feels like when living in the bubble of WW-P, these issues are not often noticeable. Sometimes, when I talk to male friends, they say that girls should have equal rights but don’t want to associate themselves with feminists, or just laugh it off.”
WFS was founded by North alumna Aasha Shaik, who graduated in June of 2016, in the middle of last year. Shaik first learned about Girls Learn International from her experience with the Working Group on Girls, a coalition of NGOs dedicated to promoting human rights for women. Though it was difficult to establish WFS at first, she hoped it would help students learn more about feminism, a movement that is often misinterpreted and misconstrued. Shaik said, “I started this club at North because I wanted to bring the fight for gender equality back to our community. Girls are often subject to stringent gender roles. Being involved in gender activism is crucial for self-empowerment and contribution to the global struggle.”
Currently, there is need for an honest conversation about the gender gap in order to prevent sexist micro-aggressions from being thrown around in casual conversation, to provide people with a forum for conversation, and to change perceptions about the struggle for women’s rights. Throughout the year, WFS will continue to fight for equality and encourage students to explore the concept of gender roles and feminism in their communities, helping girls across the world reach their full potential.