Globally, one in seven adolescent girls aged 15 – 19 are currently married or in union – UNICEF global databases (2016)
1.1 billion girls exists in the world today, a powerful number that could shape the future of this planet. They hold so much potential and yet they face discrimination, violence and lack of equal opportunities killing their dreams and their future.
I grew up in a quiet city, almost unheard of by most of my fellow Filipinos until one major flood happened. As a girl, I grew up accepting the norm that men should have the last say. My mother was in an abusive relationship with my father and even though she spoke out against him, it took her almost 25 years before she finally took the courage to end the relationship. Seeing this dysfunction at home plus going to a private school with kids from rich families deeply affected how I dealt with the world. I had to deal with a lot of internal conflicts as a child that back then did not seem to be significant. It finally developed into a wall to keep people away. I grew up introverted who was more comfortable of the thought of death than the thought of talking to people. When I reach my teenage years, I learned a bit of mischief on how to have an acceptable way of escaping classes. I joined school competitions until that one day where I ended up in an Extemporaneous Speaking competition. I placed second (or third forgot exactly) and almost had the chance to represent our school (I came late the day of the competition). That is when I knew that speaking out was not a weakness but a strength of mine.
The struggle to speak out is never easy. There are a lot of girls today who like me are going through a lot of things. Thinking about my childhood, I still had it better compared to most of the girls now. I did not have to deal with child labor or child marriage but in developing countries (excluding China), one in every three girls is married before reaching age 18. This means the futures of 47,700 girls are derailed every day.
I joined Girl Rising and became one of the Regional Ambassador for Philippines because of this pervasive thought about my own childhood and the current number of girl child suffering each second because of the lack of education and empowerment. They are voiceless victims of abuse and inequality. No one is speaking out on their behalf. We cannot let this issue remain as an elephant in the room. I started the Girl Rising Philippines Facebook Page out of the hope of reaching out to the women and girls all over the world, to give them voice and courage so they can fight for their education.
“I was going to die, sooner or later, whether or not I had even spoken myself. My silences had not protected me. Your silences will not protect you…. What are the words you do not yet have? What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die of them, still in silence? We have been socialized to respect fear more than our own need for language.”
I began to ask each time: “What’s the worst that could happen to me if I tell this truth?” Unlike women in other countries, our breaking silence is unlikely to have us jailed, “disappeared” or run off the road at night. Our speaking out will irritate some people, get us called bitchy or hypersensitive and disrupt some dinner parties. And then our speaking out will permit other women to speak, until laws are changed and lives are saved and the world is altered forever.
Next time, ask: What’s the worst that will happen? Then push yourself a little further than you dare. Once you start to speak, people will yell at you. They will interrupt you, put you down and suggest it’s personal. And the world won’t end.
And the speaking will get easier and easier. And you will find you have fallen in love with your own vision, which you may never have realized you had. And you will lose some friends and lovers, and realize you don’t miss them. And new ones will find you and cherish you. And you will still flirt and paint your nails, dress up and party, because, as I think Emma Goldman said, “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.” And at last you’ll know with surpassing certainty that only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth. And that is not speaking.”
― Audre Lorde
Right now, I am working with the rest of the Regional Ambassadors for Philippines in putting up content and we are open for collaboration. I hope you join me in speaking out about this cause. Feel free to comment here or email at firstname.lastname@example.org