I can’t accept a world where girls aren’t empowered


I was in Edmonton last weekend for the Alberta Economic Summit. A girl that I mentor came to my presentation. We went out to dinner afterwards, and I lost count of how many times that Rahel told me how happy she is.

Rahel is a second-year honours student in neuroscience at the University of Alberta, with a 4.0 grade point average last year. She volunteers with children at the hospital on campus. She wants to be a doctor — and she will be.

She is truly a beautiful girl, and she is going to make an amazing contribution to the world.

I can’t imagine a world where Rahel’s brilliance and kindness is not nurtured and shared. I can’t accept a world where girls have to worry about becoming a child bride, or being raped, or sold, or abused. I can’t accept a world where girls aren’t allowed to go to school, to become leaders in their community, to make choices and to be happy.

Yet that is the world we live in.

Friday, October 11, is the UN International Day of the Girl Child, which promotes girls’ rights worldwide. There are thousands of girls like 16-year-old Malala Yousafzai, whose campaign for girls’ right to education made her a Taliban target.

Here at home, girls are dropping out of school at alarming rates — and when they do, they end up with higher unemployment and lower wages than their male counterparts.

Who are the girls in your sphere of influence whose potential will be lost if they are not given an opportunity to thrive?

I myself was one of those girls. Growing up in poverty, all I needed was a job that would make it possible for me to go to university.

Someone gave me that job, and it made all the difference in my life.

We can all do something. One girl at a time, we can change the world. We can do it here at home and we can do it for girls across the globe.

What will you do?

— Lucy Miller is President and CEO of United Way of Calgary and Area. Post your answer to Lucy’s question — what will you do? — in the comments below.