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International Day of the Girl: 6 Inspiring Young Women Making a Difference

In honor of International Day of the Girl, Babble has dedicated a page to girls everywhere, giving them the tools to take control of their destinies and rise above stereotypes. Find out more here.

International Day of the Girl, celebrated on October 11th, is a day to honor and celebrate young girls all over the world. The United Nations created the day in 2011 to “recognize girls’ rights and the unique challenges girls face around the world.” The UN added that, “girls face discrimination and violence every day across the world. The International Day of the Girl focuses attention on the need to address the challenges girls face and to promote girls’ empowerment and the fulfillment of their human rights.”

And you know what? Some girls are facing those challenges head on and aren’t just helping themselves but helping children everywhere.

To show our support of girls everywhere, we are highlighting six young women who have proven that and are an inspiration to every girl, young and old. These stories of girls taking chances and changing lives are an inspiration to us all. Check them out here:

  • Rachel Wheeler Helping Haiti 1 of 6
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    Rachel Wheeler had the calling to help others at the young age of 9 when her mother began to bring her along to charity meetings about the conditions in Haiti. She heard Robin Mahfood, from the aid agency Food For The Poor, talk about, "children so hungry that they eat cookies made of mud, so poor that they sleep in houses made of cardboard." These stories made a big impact on Rachel. She began to raise money slowly at first by doing bake sales and selling handmade pot holders. She then started to solicit donations from the community. Her hometown Lighthouse Point Chamber of Commerce gave her two checks, a cherry farm in Washington sent the profits from one of its season's harvest, and a supporter of Food For The Poor, gave her a generous donation. 

     

    By 2011, Rachel had raised a stunning $320,000. She was able to fund the building of 27 homes for families in a small fishing town outside of the capital Port-au-Prince. She was also able to fund the rebuilding of a local school that had been destroyed by the earthquake that hit Haiti in 2010. "I saw poverty and really horrible conditions of health," Rachel said after visiting Reap de Morel in November 2011. "The children were living in makeshift homes built with things they find in the trash. It differed from my classes in the United States in many ways, such as the way we learn, and the things we have. For example in some of my classes we have digital whiteboards, and we have online classes but in Haiti, most of the time they don't have chalkboards."

     

    Rachel's been to Haiti several times and will continue to do so. "I don't believe I can snap my fingers and change Haiti overnight," she said. "I know I have to work at it."

     

    You can find out more about Rachel Wheeler's project here.

    Photo Source: Food for the Poor/ Facebook

     

  • I Am Malala 2 of 6
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    Malala Yousafzai is an incredibly brave and fearless young woman. The now 16-year-old activist is from the town of Mingora in the Swat District of Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. When she was about 11, she began to blog for the BBC about what it was like to live under the Taliban and about the importance of educating girls. The New York Times did a documentary about her and she began to talk more freely about the issues in her country, garnering awards in the process such as the International Children's Peace Prize.

     

    But Malala Yousafzai's life drastically changed on October 9th, 2012 when Malala was shot in the head and the neck in an assassination attempt by a Taliban gunmen. She, thankfully, survived and now her message has worldwide attention. The United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education used the slogan "I am Malala" for the plight of worldwide education. Time Magazine named her on the "The 100 Most Influential People in the World".  She won the National Youth Peace Prize,  the Sakharov Prize and Peter J. Gomes Humanitarian Award at Harvard University. And she has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Oh, and did I mention she's only 16?

     

    Malala is now in the United States promoting her book I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban with the message, "education is the power terrorists fear most."

     

    She appeared on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and spoke about her journey: "I started thinking about that, and I used to think that the Talib would come, and he would just kill me. But then I said, 'If he comes, what would you do Malala?' Then I would reply to myself, 'Malala, just take a shoe and hit him.'  But then I said, 'If you hit a Talib with your shoe, then there would be no difference between you and the Talib. You must not treat others with cruelty and that much harshly, you must fight others but through peace and through dialogue and through education.' Then I said, 'I will tell him how important education is and that'I even want education for your children as well. And I will tell him, 'That's what I want to tell you, now do what you want.'

    Photo Source: Amazon/ Book available for $15.60

  • Neha Gupta Empowering Orphans 3 of 6
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    The now 17-year-old Neha Gupta was just nine-years-old when she came up with the idea of her foundation Empower Orphans. Her family has a birthday tradition of bringing food and gifts to orphans in her family's Indian hometown when she came to visit from the states.

     

    Meeting the orphans in India had a huge impact on Neha and she wanted to do more than just drop items off on family birthdays.  She began to raise money by making and selling wine charms at community events and soon began to receive donations from corporate sponsors. Since she began the foundation, she has raised over $1,000,000. Empowering Orphans has since expanded, they not only help orphans in India but underprivileged families and orphans in United States as well.

     

    You can find out more about Empowering Orphans right here.

    Photo Source: Empowering Orphans

  • Kids Caring 4 Kids 4 of 6
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    Kendall Ciesemier was just 11-years-old when she saw an episode of the Oprah Winfrey Show about the plight of AIDS orphans in Africa. Kendall was facing her own personal issues living with a chronic liver disease. But she still felt the need to help the kids in Africa.  After seeing the piece on Oprah, she was matched to a child via the World Visions's orphan sponsorship program and sent her $360 of her own money. When the 8-year-old in Africa wrote to Kendall saying she would now be able to attend school for the first time, a passion was born.  Soon after, Kendall had two liver transplants and asked friends and family to donate money to the kids in Africa rather than to buy her gifts. Word spread and in a short amount of time she had raised $15,000. Her efforts inspired other American kids to do the same and Kids Caring 4 Kids was born.

     

    The organization aims to inspire kids to do their own fundraising with an array of projects and programs available on the Kids Caring 4 Kids website. And they have gone on to build, "a dormitory, an orphan care center, and a community center, as well as provided over 400 specially built bikes, indoor plumbing, school supplies, medical care, healthy meals and water wells."

     

    Kendall is no longer a kid, but a vibrant and vital young woman. Her website states, "Kendall is a sophomore at Georgetown University studying Sociology, Journalism and Theology. She plans to pursue a career in broadcast journalism so she can use her voice to create effective stories that inspire others to act. She currently blogs for the Huffington Post, as an Open Field Guide for MariaShriver.com and as an MTV Voices Global Correspondent."

     

    You can read more about Kids Caring 4 Kids here.

    Photo Source: Georgetown University

  • We Stop Hate 5 of 6
    Emily-Anne

    Emily-Anne Rigal started her organization when she was in 10th grade. In an interview with Heart of Gold, Emily-Anne said that, "I was inspired to do something good on YouTube as opposed to just making comedy videos. All my friends were also making funny videos, and we had this huge teen audience combined. I felt we could make good change if we were to spread a positive message together." And the positive message she opted to send out was one of anti-bullying.

     

    "I had been bullied as a child and ended up switching schools because the experience was so isolating and toxic. That was why anti-bullying made sense to me as to what YouTubers would talk about. I didn't expect it to become what it is now." 

     

    Her mission is, "raising self-esteem in teens (teen-esteem) through various social media platforms that engage teens to help each other gain confidence," adding that, "raising teen-esteem creates a better world for us all."

     

    "WeStopHate is more than just an anti-bullying program, it's a call-to-action to stop hate: stop hating on yourself, stop hating on others, stop letting others hate on you," the site declares.

     

    You can find out more about Emily-Anne's We Stop Hate right here.

    Photo Source: We Stop Hate

  • Maddie’s Blankets 6 of 6
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    The now 14-year-old Maddie Pelgrim has a very simple motto, "Make the world a better place, one blanket at a time." Maddie has a non-profit called Maddie's Blankets which provides warm blankets, "to shelter animals and children in foster care and transitional housing situations." She's already provided over 8,000 blankets to animals and kids in need.

     

    She said of her foundation and her philanthropic beginnings:

     

    "When I was 10, I was looking for non-profit organizations where I could volunteer. Many of the organizations didn't want me to volunteer because at the time I was too young. I also visited a rescue operation and I realized that often these animals have nothing to sleep on but a thin pillow case. Maddie's Blankets was created to give these animals a soft blanket to sleep on and to give young kids an opportunity to make a difference in their community and be able to immediately see the difference they are making. While originally designed to make animal blankets, I have expanded Maddie's Blankets to make comfort blankets for children in foster care and transitional housing situations."

     

    You can read more about Maddie's Blankets right here.

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