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Millennial Letters

Young Women Speak Out on International Women's Day

On International Women’s Day, there’s often a lot of talk about women’s rights, glass ceilings, female politicians, feminist literature, patriarchy, and so on. Less often do you hear from the demographic watching all this perhaps most closely: teen girls.

I know this because I have an eagle-eyed 14-year-old sister. She watches me like a hawk. Who are girls like her around the world watching? What inspires them? How do they see their future? I decided to sound out young women from various countries. Here’s what they said: 

Syria: Bana, 18

Q: What do you want to do with your life?

A: I’d like to do something [I] am potentially good at … something I have the talent for … but in my country, there’s no such thing as embracing and taking care of [one’s] talents or creativity and that’s why I don’t even know what I might actually excel at.

Q: What are the biggest obstacles to achieving that?

A: My country is now in the middle of a crisis that would define whether the solution to my problem lies in leaving Syria and studying in a more improved country “educationally” … or, God willing, things in Syria might get better and we, the “Syrian youth,” could help [with] improving education in Syria so that next generations won’t be facing these problems.

Q: Who, or what, most inspires you in your life right now?

A: The person I’m inspired by now and always is Prophet Mohammad peace be upon him.

Argentina: Isa Yumalte, 17, in Buenos Aires

Q: What do you want to do with your life?

A: That’s a hard question. I’d like to do so many things with my life. Right now I’m looking forward [to] volunteering in a soup kitchen and two years from now I see myself traveling through Europe, visiting every single art museum. I’d love to study art there and when I come back I’d teach art to kids who may not have the opportunity to pay for lessons, being able to teach them how to put their feelings in a blank page. But that’s not it. I’d love to own a music magazine in which new bands would come up every month. Those are like my “biggest” goals. But the real deal, what I would really love to do with my life is almost everything there is to do. I’d like to live it the fullest and to take the best out of everything I do. It’s kind of corny, though [she laughs].

Q: What are the biggest obstacles to achieving that?

A: Well, I think an obstacle is something that disturbs your way, but when you really want something there’s nothing you can’t do. Sometimes the biggest obstacle is yourself. Your fears and the effort it takes to do some things or to fail. But money or material things are not the real problem. There’s nothing you can’t get if you work hard enough to get it.

Q: How do you plan to overcome those obstacles? 

A: I guess that like any other teenage girl I’m full of fears and obstacles created, mainly, by myself. I don’t really know how I could overcome them because those fears will be appearing through my life, but I think that it’s quite important to always remember what you want, how much you want it, and if it’s worth it.

Q: Who, or what, most inspires you in your life right now?

A: There’s no one who I look up to. I mean, there’s no one who makes me think, “Oh, that’s what I’d like to be like when I grow up.” Of course I admire a lot of qualities from my parents and from the adults that surround me, but I don’t feel inspired by any one. I’d like to be just me, whoever that is. Music has been a great support: Chopin, Pink Floyd, the Beatles, Charly Garcia and Luis Alberto Spinetta are the bands/artist that most influence had in my life. You could say that they inspire me.

(Many thanks to journalist Jessica Weiss for conducting this interview.)

Iran: Yalda Kaviani, 17, writing from her school in Luxembourg 

Q: What do you want to do with your life?

A: Well first of all I want to get high school over with and later on I want to become a businesswoman. :)

Q: What are the biggest obstacles to achieving that?

A: I think the most important thing for me right now is to basically concentrate on school to be able to pass the years successfully, also I have to be more sociable because to become a successful business woman, you have to be sociable and be able to communicate with other people.

Q: How do you plan to overcome those obstacles? 

A: I’m planning on traveling to other countries, for example, Madagascar, and participate in charity to be in contact with other people. Also I might take summer courses to improve my grades in order to be accepted in a good uni [university].

Q: Who, or what, most inspires you in your life right now?

A: I must say that for the moment I have my very best friend who supports me to cope with everything in my life and also the support of my parents and my two sisters encourages me to go on and never give up!

Mary Deasy, 14, California, United States 

Q: What do you want to do with your life?

A: When I get older and have enough money, I want to travel around the world to London or to New York, exploring different landmarks, going on adventures, and meeting well-known people.

Q: What are the biggest obstacles to achieving that?

A: The main problem I have with this plan is the cost of traveling

Q: How do you plan to overcome those obstacles? 

A: I plan to get over these by becoming someone who has a job that involves traveling or having a job that pays enough for me to travel at least every once in a while.

Q: Who, or what, most inspires you in your life right now?

A: I was inspired by the heroine in my favorite book Green Rider because she was simple and went to school but was able to get herself caught in an adventure. But I realize instead of trying to make a book adventure come true you have to focus on your own dream and your own adventure to make those come true.

Syria: Rama, 18 

Q: What do you want to do with your life?

A: I’m now studying in the University. I have always dreamed of doing something related to languages! Anyway, the thing I am sure about, I want to make my life happy and useful. I hope, I am going to buy my own bread myself, make a family … feel complete & serene.

Q: What are the biggest obstacles to achieving that?

A: Obstacles, I can think of, the educational system in my country is not one of the most effective, unfortunately. Personally, I need to have more courage to take new steps in new worlds.

Q: How do you plan to overcome those obstacles? 

A: As for studying, I am thinking of travelling later to a prestigious university/hospital to carry on my studies. Returning afterwards to our duty: playing a role in improving/rebuilding the things in my homeland.

Q: Who, or what, most inspires you in your life right now?

A: As a believer, the Holy Quran, The lives of the Prophets & their companions are to be mentioned when talking about inspiration. Rap has been on my playlist for about five years now, some lyrics & rappers have marked me. I am grown-up now … I believe real heroes are the ones books don’t mention. They can vary from a young enthusiastic professor trying to make a difference in our uni; to a father struggling in those difficult times, to keep the family safe and make things seem less awful to children....

Ireland: Marie Loure, 15, writing from Luxembourg 

Q: What do you want to do with your life?

A: I want to achieve a balance between having a great family and being a successful businesswoman.

Q: What are the biggest obstacles to achieving that?

A: The biggest obstacles are going to be to get amazing a-levels [referring to critical school exams], get into a great uni and then succeeding in the competitive business market.

Q: How do you plan to overcome those obstacles? 

A: I’ll achieve this by studying like hell.

Q: Who, or what, most inspires you in your life right now?

A: I inspire myself ’cause I know what I want and that’s what drives me.

Patagonia (Argentina): Juli Gonzalez, 18, from Cipolletti, Rio Negro 

Q: What do you want to do with your life?

A: In one week I will start my studies in Business Economics. Although I’m still not sure what my job will be once I receive my degree, I hope to be able to work in [business] administration or in the management of a multinational company. 

Q: What are the biggest obstacles to achieving that?

A: Now, none. Maybe that’s because it’s my first year of university, and I have never lived the experience before. I have to move to another city far from my family and friends, meet new people and adapt to the idea of working harder in my studies. But beyond that there are no other obstacles. I am very sure of myself. 

Q: How do you plan to overcome those obstacles? 

A: I can overcome them by opening myself more to the experience, and getting used to the idea that I’m not the only one who experiences this. There are many teenagers who live and lived what I am now.

Q: Who, or what, most inspires you in your life right now?

A: Right now, my family inspires me, as does the future ahead of me. I know that I have to try very hard in school and in my studies, because my parents didn’t have the opportunity to do so as young adults, and it would give them great satisfaction if I do my absolute best. On the other hand, I must do it to feel good about myself.

(Many thanks to journalist Jessica Weiss for conducting this interview.)

When it comes to the challenges facing the women’s rights movement, it’s important to hear from more of these up-and-coming young women. They are, after all, the ones who will take on the fight for their rights in the years ahead in their countries—or not, as the case may be. Either way, this is a critical conversation to have while they are still in their more formative years. Time for an International Teen Girl Day?

 

Photo Credit: Al Jazeera English 

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