This blog post was written by Programs Intern Tiffani Ren and Girls Write Now mentee Rahat Huda, who attended New York City’s Malala Day celebration.
Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani girl who was shot by the Taliban because of her efforts to get an education. She has written books about her experience and won awards including the Nobel Peace Prize. Since then, she’s gone on to advocate for the education of girls globally and most recently visited the largest refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya on her 19th birthday. New York City celebrated her birthday (officially declared Malala Day) by inviting Girls Write Now, among other young women leaders, to City Hall.
After being seated in the Blue Room, which was literally blue, Azadeh Khalili, the Executive Director of the Commission on Gender Equity, kicked off the event by asking the guests to introduce ourselves and talk about positive things going on in our lives. Khalili then played Girls Write Now’s video, Ode to Malala!
The First Lady of New York City, Chirlane McCray, then came to the podium to speak, starting out by singing the chorus of the song and beckoning us to join. She proceeded to draw attention to the amazing leadership present in the room. McCray spoke about Leuna Rahman, who is a Bangladeshi girl very involved with the South Asian Youth Action organization, as well as Tayloni Mazyck, who graduated with honors from middle school this year, after being paralyzed by a gun at age 11. She also mentioned the Storming Steppers from the New Voices School, who performed a routine after the First Lady took her seat.
The Storming Steppers’ powerful performance consisted of a step routine interjected with moving tributes to powerful women, such as Harriet Tubman, Maya Angelou, and their mothers, who paved the way for women like them. With goosebumps on our arms, we watched as the girls shook the floor of City Hall and declared, “I am powerful because I am a woman!”
After receiving enthusiastic cheers from the audience, the Steppers, Rahman, and Mazyck lined up to receive their Malala Leadership Awards and personal letters from Malala. The celebration was concluded with Khalili opening the stage to anyone who wanted to speak to the importance of education or the hardships of being a leader. Rahman talked about the difficulty of not being taken seriously as a female leader, while others discussed how this event was a good example of how valuing education unites.
It was an incredible honor to be in the presence of so many women who are active members in their communities and come from similar backgrounds as many Girls Write Now mentees and mentors.We thank Girls Write Now for the opportunity to participate in this wonderful celebration of a truly inspiring global activist!!