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Girl Rising: From Demure to Defiant

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WOMEN RISING
AP

This is the first in a series of blogs by Gordon Brown written from WEF in Davos, looking at the growing global empowerment of young women. Stay up to date by signing up at www.educationenvoy.org.

The rights of girls is becoming the hot topic of the 2013, as a new movement of empowered young women discovers that it has the momentum to force big issues -- girls' health, girls' education and the protection of girls against violence -- to the centre of the global agenda.

The pressure that has come from anti-rape marches, which have dominated the early days of the year in India and have spread to other countries, will not dissipate in the next few weeks. Indeed it will be stepped up, with Valentine's Day demonstrations around the world, when the online campaign group One Billion Rising plans what it calls a mixture of 'a global strike, an invitation to dance, an act of solidarity with women and a refusal to accept violence against women and girls as a given'.

Girls' rights will be the focus of the 10x10 Initiative when, on International Women's Day (March 8), award-winning journalists and film-makers will expose in the new documentary 'Girl Rising' just how unfair the distribution of educational opportunities is for so many millions of girls around the world. The new film will give added impetus to long-running campaigns such as Plan International's Because I Am A Girl, whose aim is to give four million girls around the world the chance to gain the education that can help them to break out of the cycle of poverty.

In the wake of the shooting last year of Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai, discrimination against girls -- 32 million of whom are denied the chance to go to school -- will be the theme of a special event during the United Nations General Assembly in September. Ahead of that, getting girls to school in targeted countries will be a top agenda item in a summit on April 18-19 in Washington, to be attended by the UN Secretary-General and the President of the World Bank, in advance of the IMF/World Bank spring meetings. During that week, we will also focus on ways to ban child marriage and child labour, and outlaw the prejudice that prevents girls going to school.

The rights of girls is moving to the top of the global issues agenda because young women are saying with rising resolve that they will no longer accept the rules and conventions imposed upon them by a male-dominated adult population.

Indeed, I see in recent protests a real shift. Demonstrations that started as cautious, often gentle, admonitions to the powers that be, with respectful requests for change, have now come to encompass a set of defiant, non-negotiable demands in the form of ultimatums -- and rightly so. Protests that once were pleas to 'please stop this' have become protests that insist 'no more and never again'.