New Voices

International Day of the Girl Child: Raising Up The Next Generation of World Changers

Tomorrow is the International Day of the Girl Child, an opportunity to support the work of organizations across the globe helping to increase girls’ access to education and promote human rights. As you contribute to the empowerment of girls worldwide, you can also use this day to make an impact at home.

Whether your daughter is in elementary school or starting to think about choosing a college, it’s a good time to encourage her to become a world changer.

Long before the Trump presidency, there was an ongoing discussion about women’s representation in foreign policy. Today, it’s even more important.

As far back as I can remember, I wanted to work in foreign policy. Over the years, I had the opportunity to work with some of the best and the brightest in the U.S. government, from the Treasury Secretary to the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

But today’s girls face a different political environment.

While women still serve in high-ranking government positions, the atmosphere has changed. I’m not sure what I would have thought as a high school student if I heard degrading comments about women by a future president dismissed as “locker room talk.” I doubt I would’ve been as eager to pursue a career in foreign policy.

We must help girls see beyond the current political atmosphere and encourage their interest in the world and international affairs. Otherwise, we may miss out on a future generation of women leaders.

It starts at home, because the girl sitting in your living room doing her homework might help create something better for all of us.

It’s never too early to lend her a hand. A few small steps can start to prepare the girls of today to become the leaders of tomorrow:

  1. Put the world at her fingertips.

On my kids’ desk sits a hand-painted pencil holder that I bought in Haiti more than a dozen years ago. My kids know that it’s special to me, even if they don’t fully understand what it represents.

In a small way, it’s giving them a glimpse of life from another perspective.

Giving your kids something tangible to see the world from a different viewpoint doesn’t have to be expensive or require a special trip.

If your daughter is younger, print flags from other countries for her to color. If she’s older, take her to a new restaurant, give her a chance to experience food from another culture, and start a conversation. If she could go anywhere in the world, where would she go?

  1. Show your daughter her connection to the world.

Unless your heritage is Native American, at some point your family came to America from somewhere else. In some families, those stories might be full of hope. In other families, they might be full of tragedy. Either way, they’ll help your daughter understand the world better.

When I was young, I knew something happened to my great-grandmother’s family that made them flee to the United States, but I didn’t know the details of what happened in Turkey a century ago. My questions about the Armenian Genocide as a child paved the way years later for a job with the President’s Special Envoy to Sudan after the genocide in Darfur.

You don’t need to know the details of your heritage, and your story doesn’t need to be dramatic. But talking with your kids about the past will help prepare them for the future.

  1. Empower your girl to become a problem-solver.

In our house, dinner is our prime opportunity to talk about the day. Maybe in your house it’s breakfast. Whenever you make time for connection, talk with your kids not just about their day, but also about the big picture.

When they tell you a problem they heard in class or saw on the playground, ask them what they would do to solve it.

Their ideas don’t have to be realistic at first. The goal isn’t to make them pint-sized experts. It’s to help them see themselves as a part of the solution, and to encourage them to take on the role of problem-solver.

This International Day of the Girl Child, do something to help girls abroad and take time to help the girls in your life become little leaders.

The skills you cultivate in your daughter will give her an awareness of the complexity of the world and her role within it. They will help her navigate difficult situations and become the best version of herself, no matter what path her career takes.

And if your child wants to know more about what it’s like to work in foreign policy, send her my way so she can ask her questions directly.

Your daughter may not become a future Secretary of State.

But then again, she just might.

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