International Day of the Girl Child
I’m Generation Equality: Selin Özünaldım, HeForShe advocate, youth activist for gender equality
Date: Friday, October 9, 2020
I am Generation Equality because…
Since I was a child, I remember how I questioned the cultural systems and the social construct. But I never took action until one day my little brother told me that I didn’t have to worry about school because I could simply get married. That was the moment I decided that I had to be the voice of change. I realized the risks associated with this mindset created by the society. Such a stereotype could even affect a little child's thought structure. Deep in my heart, I knew I had to do something. I sent an email to UN Women the next morning to get involved in the HeForShe movement. With their support, I have started the first HeForShe Club in my high school where we held conferences, workshops and events about gender equality. Later on, I started visiting other high schools across Turkey to introduce the movement to students, help them create teams, and advocate for their passions in gender equality.
Three ways everyone can support empowerment of girls according to Selin:
- Support girl’s empowerment and education
- Challenge stereotypes by raising awareness in your community
- Commit to the HeForShe if you believe that everyone is born free and equal
Gender inequality is rampant everywhere
We still think that only women can be feminists. Men are still being criticized for being too emotional. Victim-blaming in violence against women and femicides is still a massive problem. Millions of girls’ education cannot attend school because of their gender. Men are still thought to be the breadwinners in the family. Many still say a woman ‘must be on her period’ if she expresses her emotions too much.
“As an activist, you find more things that need to be changed every day.”
- Selin Özünaldım
Youth as change agents
My message for young people is not to feel afraid of speaking up about the things they think is not right, and that have to be changed. Be that person who creates change! Make people uncomfortable, put them in a position where they have to start talking about these issues that need solutions.
Roll up your sleeves: No action, no step is too small or meaningless. Even reading books or watching movies on human rights and equality are important steps. Women bear sexual jokes, catcalling and other forms of verbal harassment on a daily basis. So call out sexism!
Girls are taught to be little princesses from the moment they are toddlers. Teach girls their real worth and respect their decisions.
If you put your time and effort into it, you can find a place where you share the same goals, a place that can help you create meaningful change.
Selin, 17, is a young HeForShe Advocate in Turkey, founder of Girls Who Code, founder of Girl Up Istanbul, founder of @wegroundzero, a Girl Rising Task Force Member, a Women Tech Global Ambassador and one of the 300 Gender Youth Activist selected globally for the Generation Equality Campaign of UN Women.