Diana Oprea, Plan International’s Youth Advisory Panelist blogs about her experience on the International Day of the Girl 2017, reflecting what it is like to be the girl taking over leading positions in Ireland for a day.
On the morning of International Day of the Girl, I made my way through the gates of Dáil Éireann battling through the rain which was making an attempt to mix-up my thoughts, busy as they were rehearsing the stats and figures about girls’ rights, which I was about to iterate to the woman currently holding the highest female seat in politics in Ireland.
I remember that short walk, it seems to have stuck with me because it felt empowering and made me question how many other women have had the opportunity to hear the clicking of their heels at the entrance in the heart of Irish politics?
Very few, as I was due to find out from the mouth of the An Tánaiste herself: “Only 20 women or so have held positions in the House since the 1990s”, a statistic which sent shivers down my spine… it still does.
I was due to have a meet with An Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald about her own experience as a woman in politics. My heart warmed to her openness and the “can-do” stance which she adopted when she urged me to encourage more girls and women to join politics. And then again, seeing her standing up to the “suits”, her male colleagues, debating pressing issues such as Brexit with ease and grace, but also with a tone which dominated the room and echoed in the ears of those 78% of men who filled the seats.
After the meeting at the Dáil, we rushed out in the rain once again to our next event to mark International Day of the Girl. The weather seemed to mirror my mood, as I thought more and more about the 51% which I was representing that day, the sense of duty and responsibility bearing down on my shoulders.
Thinking about the 15 million girls who are forced into marriages before they’re 18 years of age, one every two seconds to be more precise. More than 10 girls have been married in the time it took me to write down the sentence that you’re currently reading. They are the voiceless which I was able to give a voice to that day so I powered through the next stage: the launch of the 2017 ‘Unlock The Power of Girls’ report.
I had the opportunity to watch my fellow Yapper (Youth Advisory Panellist for Plan International Ireland) and friend, Caoimhe, deliver a powerful speech in the Mansion House to a packed room of representatives from international development, human and child rights, politics and media. Caoimhe was voicing the stories and realities behind statistics and explaining the importance of unlocking the power of girls now. When the report was finished, we walked out of the Mansion House together on our way to the next take-over, Lord Mayor of Dublin, and as if all those girls had heard us, the sun came out. They were proud of us.
Going live with EVOKE.ie, an online female news publication, was the final stage of me taking over leadership positions for international day of the girl. After having already spoken to newspapers, radios, tv stations and live audiences, the process was now complete, having had our voices echoed in all these spaces.
Reflecting back on the day and having read the stories of the other 500 girls who took over major offices around the world, who stood up for other girls, I was overcome with a sense of belongingness and respect.
I am in awe but I am also more empowered than ever, to make sure girls’ voices are heard. That my voice, the voice of a 19 year old will ring loud and clear to those who are yet to learn how to value and appreciate us.
Educate a girl. Employ a woman. Empower a nation
– Youth Advisory Panel of Plan International Ireland 2017