Every one of you is a special gift. I look at you, listen to you in my community, see photos of you from around the world, hear your ideas and read your stories, and I see such beauty, and courage, and strength, and wisdom. Beauty, courage, strength and wisdom that comes from your young hearts, your young spirits just beginning to explore this world you have been born into.
I celebrate each moment that I see you happy, carefree, discovering your voice and your capabilities, hand in hand with friends and adults in your lives who celebrate you and encourage you to explore who you are and what you want to do with your precious lives.
I see too with deep pain in my heart those of you who have already felt injustice, been told you have no right to choose your own life path, have been subjected to silencing, control, punishment, forced labor, have been told you cannot go to school, have been verbally insulted or shamed for having not enough money for clothing or tuition or books, shamed for bleeding through clothing, for having been physically or sexually assaulted, for thinking differently from others, for being physically challenged, for looking different, or for having ideas that challenge these prejudices.
I want you to know that it has not always been this way, and that it is not this way everywhere. Much of the history of this world has been hidden by those who are intent on controlling the lives of girls and women, and suppressing the voices of those of us researching and speaking about the true history of this world, the times and places and communities in which women and girls have been and are still respected, and in which women’s leadership is expected.
I want you to know that many of your older sisters, mothers, aunties, grandmothers, great grandmothers and ancestor mothers have been working for centuries for respect and equality for women and girls everywhere, and for the right of men and boys to be gentle without being attacked, as well. The right of freedom of choice for your own life path was written into the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, and all countries are supposed to be following it. Still in most of our countries men and boys are being taught that they have the right to control, even celebrated for being violent toward women and girls. We still find so many women and girls living as indentured labourers, kidnapped or trapped into sexual slavery, refused the right to financial independence, beaten for speaking out about fairness and freedom, beaten for challenging the idea that any man should be in control of any woman or girl.
Standing strong for your own and other girls’ freedom can also be hard, as even women and girls so often turn against any of us speaking out for a new way, calling us “too radical”, “radical feminist”, “anti-male”. Down deep many women fear punishment to speak openly about new ways and are rewarded for speaking out against those of us who are working for fairness and freedom. Please trust yourselves as you work for your own and each others’ freedoms. Let the accusations slide off your backs like water and know that you are not alone. Embrace radical, we need radical change, embrace feminist, we are determined to create a radically different life for women and girls. There are millions of us working together for these changes.
Dear young sisters, it is painful to lay all this out but I must, as this is where we are at, and too many are still being told that “it is just the way things are done”. I want you to know that that beautiful fire inside you that tells you that you believe in a different way, a way in which you are free to soar wth your talents, choose your path, live free of violence and containment, that voice is precious, and your human right. That voice of yours which is so needed as we work together with the wisdom and love that we have as women, to balance leadership in this world and create a better world for everybody, a world in which we are taking care of the Earth as well. Your courage and trust in yourself is part of how we will succeed for the benefit of all.
I want you to know that we are so much further, so much stronger together than we were 100 years ago, even 50 years ago, even a few years ago. I want you to know that in great part my hope and new joy is because of you. I want you to know that I watch for you, and celebrate each time I see or hear you speaking out, your strong vision, your confidence, your new ideas, your intelligence, your passion, your inspired new forms of leadership, your ideas taking us beyond what we have even imagined.
Now we are all connecting, in our own communities, around the world and across generations, able to understand better from each other what needs to be done, able to know and repeat each others’ stories. Now we hold hands across all distances and together we are creating freedom, a world without violence, a world without war, a world without poverty, a world in which we are taking care of each other and of our Mother Earth and all her beings. It is the leadership of women and girls that has been missing.
You are the future dear girls, and you are spectacularly beautiful.