Shining A Light on Girls’ Education

This past Tuesday, October 11, was International Day of the Girl, a day dedicated to celebrating and empowering girls around the world. To commemorate the day, the White House’s Let Girls Learn initiative and Glamour magazine hosted an incredible event to discuss the importance of empowerment and education (you can check out the video here). The event, featuring First Lady Michelle Obama, actress Yara Shahidi, and girls from all over the world, reminded us immediately of another remarkable Let Girls Learn event last month, when FLOTUS, Broadway stars, spouses of heads of state and government, and girls from a number of groups got together to highlight the importance of educating girls worldwide. A number of representatives from different local YWCAs had the opportunity to attend Broadway Shines A Light On Girls’ Education, including Mitzi Cierra Walker from YWCA Yonkers. Here, Mitzi shares her thoughts on the event:

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I would like to share how much I was inspired by the “Broadway Shines A Light On Girls’ Education event that I had the opportunity to attend in New York City at the Bernard Jacobs Theatre.

It was such an honor to be among so many influential and brave young women who shared their stories with dignity and confidence. I heard so many stories of strength, leadership, and determination. I listened, captivated, as Halima Robert told of her journey from trials to triumph. At 15, Halima was forced to marry a man twice her age, and her education came to a halt. Luckily, she sought help from a group that works to support girls’ right to education and get young girls out of marriage; with their help, Halima was able to leave her marriage and return to school. Today, she is earning top grades in school and serves as a role model, inspiring women and girls globally.

Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan also inspired all of us in the audience, speaking about advocating for education and health for women in her country and all over the world. The first lady of Malawi, Dr. Gertrude Mutharika, spoke to us as well, sharing about her initiatives to support girls’ education. These two women encouraged us girls to believe in ourselves, and to become fearless in the face of obstacles along o
ur journey.

This event didn’t just have amazing speakers – there were also performances from Broadway stars. Each breathtaking musical performance gave me goose bumps. The casts from “Waitress and “Wicked” sang powerful words encouraging young women and girls to be confident, to honor the importance of education, and to value sisterhood and friendship. I ywca-of-yonkers-waiting-in-linewas so moved that I even shed a tear as the cast of “The Color Purple” sang soulful lyrics about being self-determined, wonderfully imperfect, and appreciative of who God made you to be.

Last, we heard from the beautiful First Lady Michelle Obama, who is a prime example of a great role model, mother, and leader for many women and young girls all over the world. The First Lady shared her story about growing up in a working class environment and how she was fortunate to receive financial aid to help pay for her tuition to some of the finest universities. I can relate to her story as a young woman trying to secure my education and make it through the struggle. The First Lady emphasized the importance of our education, highlighting the journey of Malala Yousefzai as an example of the power of education and the determination and strength of girls.

This is what #LetGirlsLearn is all about – it is a movement that encourages girls to persevere in their education, no matter what obstacles they may face. On behalf of all the women and girls who spoke at the event, it is my obligation to empower all of my sisters, and to persevere and strive for more in my education. This #LetGirlsLearn event on Broadway inspired me, and I will remember that day for the rest of my life.

 

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Mitzi Cierra Walker, a Yonkers, NY, native, is a full-time student at Westchester Community College where she is pursuing a degree in Human Services (expected graduation: summer of 2017)! For the past six years, Mitzi has served as an administrative assistant at YWCA Yonkers, where she also supervises volunteers. She previously interned with YWCA Yonkers’ Transitional Housing Department, and also held a summer job with Yonkers Residential Opportunities, a home for teenage girls.

 

Mitzi has a 3-year-old daughter who motivates her to become a better woman each and every day, and to be a positive role model. She loves inspiring and motivating young women and girls to become empowered. For Mitzi, YWCA Yonkers is more than just a place of employment: it is her second home. She loves going to work every day, and being able to serve others in need, and she thanks YWCA Yonkers for teaching her leadership, self-worth, and dedication. Mitzi is honored to be part of such a wonderful organization.