This October, teens from around the world submitted their pieces about what it means to grow up as a girl. Girls Speak Out, presented by Day of the Girl Summit, worked with local New York City teens to perform the accepted pieces at the United Nations—in front of a packed house of 600+ attendees. We were lucky enough to have talented mentees—Shirleyka Hector, Calayah Heron, Kirby-Estar Laguerre, Najaya Royal, and Bre’Ann Newsome—represent Girls Write Now on this global stage.
We asked Kirby and Najaya about their experience participating in such a special event honoring and advocating for girls.
“I was thrilled, of course, by just being in the United Nations, and to be actually performing there. My excitement grew as I watched the auditorium fill with so many people—from high government officials to high school girls, like me. Not only was I part of the performance, I had the rare opportunity to meet people with the power to influence the lives of young women. But, the best part of participating in the Girls Speak Out event was being able to share the stories from girls all across the world. Sadly, many of those stories dealt with rape, forced and arranged marriages, being regarded as a sex object instead of a human being—subjects we don’t talk enough about. I was honored that I was chosen to represent these girls. I was so thankful to have had the chance to be a part of such a revolutionary movement that is seeking equality for all girls. To raise my voice along with the other girls.
I can’t deny that it was an amazing experience having my own poem, “February 28th” about the conflict I felt at turning 16, read aloud at the U.N. Never in a million years would I have imagined this happening to me—for so many people to listen to my own story and gain insight into my definition of what it means to be a girl today in Brooklyn, New York.
I hope that everyone who either attended the event or watched it broadcast, now has a better understanding of the problems facing girls and women everywhere, and the urgent need to improve their lives. It would be wonderful if this event helps to bring about the change in the world that one can only dream of.” —Kirby-Estar Laguerre, Girls Write Now mentee
“57+ hours of rehearsal all for this moment. Seats filling rapidly but we closed our eyes, absorbed each other’s energy, and became one. That night, we were the voices of every girl worldwide on a stage placed in the heart of where all changes begin. Every girl who had a story to tell had that day to shine. That day was our day.
Stepping into the world of acting was somewhat terrifying for me. My biggest fear had to be memorization, especially since I am one who has a mind that likes to wander. What if I was on stage going with the flow then I just lost everything? What if I couldn’t perfect my character? What if I ruined their story?
Stories were submitted from girls worldwide speaking on their many obstacles from being married off, to being raped, to equality and beyond. These are stories that illustrated how messed up the world is for females and how strong they were to pull through. I was proud of the outcome and I hope that we made everyone proud to be a part of this movement we were blessed to be chosen for.
At the closing of the ceremony, I was spotted by a young girl who shyly approached me with a smile that warmed me up as much as the doll she gave me. A keychain doll from Mexico allowed me to finally breathe (I swear this little girl had me ready). But I was and will always be thankful for this opportunity to bond with talented and amazing people.
The Day of The Girl Summit made me appreciate what I had, and it inspired me. Hopefully our message carried across all boundaries, whether gender, racial, or religious—because change starts with us all.” —Najaya Royal, Girls Write Now mentee
Be sure to check out Girls Write Now’s full celebration of International Day of the Girl here!