Today marks the 10th anniversary of the International Day of the Girl, a day that Girls Who Code has typically celebrated widely, with fun and powerful campaigns showcasing the enormous impact girls have on the tech industry and beyond. We believe that when girls are empowered, supported, and given access to opportunities, they can change the world. And while, of course, we will continue to celebrate, there’s also an urgency to this year that we can no longer ignore.
Let’s be clear: in America, our girls are at risk and, over the last few years, their lives have gotten worse. They have been forced to watch as an aging and hostile political leadership — from school boards all the way up to the Supreme Court — has swiftly stripped away their rights and failed to protect their futures.
In what seems like a flash, they’ve witnessed the overturning of Roe v. Wade, aggressive limitations on abortion and contraception access, attacks on LGBTQIA students, anti-trans hysteria, book banning, climate change denial, and censorship of what they can learn and how. They wake up, every day, with the looming threat of violence — gun violence, sexual violence, domestic violence, and a rise in misogynist hate speech online that has emboldened regressive ideas on a girl’s place in the world.
Today, girls have far too many reasons to feel unsafe. And any time a girl lives in fear, she is at risk of not reaching her full potential. With the passing of each of these laws — with each right stripped away — we are placing limitations on their future.
This is unacceptable. But it is also by design. Our country is experiencing the result of decades of strategic dismantling of women’s rights, because a woman in power is a threat to the patriarchal, white supremacist structures that maintain our status quo. Girls, and especially girls of color, are bearing the brunt of this threat, and Gen Z stands to become the first generation of American women to have fewer rights than their mothers.
Despite everything, girls are still putting in the work, and are taking action where their elders are not. Our founder, Reshma Saujani, wrote in 2018 that “maybe girls will save us,” and that has proven to be true. Girls Who Code students overwhelmingly use their skills for projects serving and protecting their own community — from creating a firearm tracker to curb gun violence, to coding websites raising awareness about climate change or anti-immigration policies. One of our alumni founded an initiative to 3D print PPE materials for medical professionals on the frontlines of the fight against COVID-19.
Yes, girls are still poised to be the ones to save us. However, they shouldn’t have to do it alone. It’s time for the grownups in the room to step up and fight. Our world, and all our lives, are quite simply better when girls are given opportunities to become leaders and changemakers. How are we going to open doors for them? How are we going to challenge those who want girls’ lives to become smaller, less independent, less powerful?
I say all of this with the understanding that showing up looks different for everyone. Where you live, where you work, your economic status, your political power, your race, your sexual orientation, your overall privilege — all these factor into your ability to best serve the most marginalized.
However, I challenge everyone to embark on everyday acts of advocacy for girls. Vote for politicians who support reproductive justice, and canvas your neighborhood to galvanize support for them. Attend your local school board meeting. Run for local office. Think critically about where you spend your money, and how you might be tacitly funding anti-choice, anti-LGBTQIA, and pro-gun movements, and change your habits. Give girls something to look forward to when they enter the workforce by asking for paid leave and universal child care now. Talk to your sons about misogyny, patriarchy, and consent, instead of relying on our daughters to protect themselves. Step aside and let girls take the lead, and give them a meaningful voice in issues that most matter to them.
I want a better future for girls. I want a better future for all the students I serve. I want a better future for my own daughter. I want to leave behind a better world for the next generation, and not leave them to pick up after our mess.
This year, on International Day of the Girl, it’s time for all of us to get serious. From now on, we have to be more than allies, we have to be warriors.