Sponsored by the United Nations, "International Day of the Girl” is described on their website www.dayofthegirl.org as a day to "highlight, celebrate, discuss and advance girls lives and opportunities across the globe ... by speaking out against gender bias and advocate for girls’ rights everywhere.”
Last week, 17-year-old San Mateo High School senior Karen Chee came before the San Mateo City Council and asked us to pass a proclamation naming Oct. 11 "International Day of the Girl” in the city of San Mateo.
The City Council approved the proclamation by a vote of 5-0, thanked Ms. Chee for her involvement in our community and moved on to other matters before the council.
Two days ago, the small but significant symbolism of supporting young women like Ms. Chee took on greater import for me.
In Pakistan, Taliban gunmen boarded a school bus and shot 14 year-old Malala Yousafzai in the head for advocating for girls’ rights. Ms. Yousafzai has been a tireless advocate for girls’ right to education and equal treatment.
Ms. Yousafzai was awarded a national peace prize by the government of Pakistan, but was targeted by Taliban radicals for daring to stand up for the rights of girls. Ms. Yousafzai survived the assassination attempt, but is in critical condition.
When I read the news about Ms. Yousafzai, I could not help but draw comparisons to the advocacy of Ms. Chee and other young women in our society.
I am grateful that we live in a society that will declare our support for girls who want to do great things for our community and country. I am grateful that as a council we are able to publicly proclaim to Ms. Chee and other girls (including my two young daughters) that they will not have to live in fear of retribution for standing up and daring to be who they are.
As a City Council and as a community, we often forget that small gestures like proclaiming today "International Day of the Girl” serves to reaffirm our commitment as a society for equality and freedom for all.
In honor of Ms. Yousafzai, and in thanks to Ms. Chee, I hope you will all take a moment to encourage and recognize the young women in our community on "International Day of the Girl.”
David Lim is the deputy mayor of the city of San Mateo.