As a girl living a relatively normal life, I never dreamed that my poem would be selected to be part of the United Nation‚Äôs Girls Speak Out. The Day of the Girl Summit aims to spread awareness about gender inequalities and the lasting impressions they make on young women throughout the world. I‚Äôve been an advocate for girls‚Äô rights since my days as a Girl Scout, but none of my experiences would qualify me to be featured amongst girls who witness sexism and other issues on a daily basis. However, I think that my poem transcends the gender gap, dealing with a topic that affects girls and boys alike: creativity.
Once my poem was selected, I decided to make the trip from Florida to New York just to participate in the event. I arrived at the United Nations Headquarters early and watched as girls poured in through security, donning¬†colorful Day of the Girl t-shirts. If you‚Äôve ever walked by the UN Headquarters, you‚Äôll know how intimidating it is. The elaborate architecture of the building rises above flags of the 192 member countries. Inside, the labyrinth of hallways forced me to ask for directions four or five times. The confusion was definitely worth it.
Stepping foot in the ECOSOC Chamber (Economic and Social Council) is quite overwhelming; so many global initiatives have been disputed in that very room. As soon as every seat was filled, the presentation began. Canadian Minister of Labor and Women Kellie Leitch, UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, and the co-chairs of the Working Group on Girls provided personal opening remarks — a perfect start to the event. New York City girls chosen to perform the pieces did so with grace, remembering every line and expressing a wide range of emotions. Coincidentally, my poem was performed last, coming only before the closing song. The presentation consisted of six issues: family and relationships, education, sexual violence, beauty and body image, poverty and child marriage, and empowerment. It encompassed a variety of stories — from an 11 year-old discussing her battle with muscular dystrophy to a 14 year-old fighting against child marriage in Malawi. Hearing every story of struggle made me realize just how fortunate I was.
After my poem was recited by one of the older performers, I remembered how much of myself I put into writing it. Girls Speak Out isn‚Äôt limited to just promoting gender equality; it shares a glimpse inside the lives of each writer, proving just how brave girls really are. With the variety of life inside that chamber, one can‚Äôt help but feel like a small piece to a whole. I hope that my poem resonated with at least one girl somewhere; that way, she‚Äôll know she‚Äôs not alone.
I‚Äôm the girl people hear but never listen to
Are my words even relevant? Are they true?
I am conformity, a uniform life
And yet my mind is aching with strife
A poet in my heart and a buffer in my throat
Who will say all of those beautiful things I wrote?
At age ten, my creativity was praised
Everyone in my class, even my teacher, was amazed
‚ÄúAs he plucked the rose‚Äôs stem, he strummed the girl‚Äôs heartstrings‚Äù
‚ÄúWhat a beautiful line, Lindsay. You could write a variety of things!‚Äù
I felt like the smartest girl in my class, no, in my entire grade!
But as my education progressed, my talent began to fade.
Teachers corrected every sentence I said
It‚Äôs like my hand and pencil were strewn to an invisible thread
‚ÄúYour essay is too long. Follow the outline.‚Äù
But is my work really comparable? Does CREATIVITY have a deadline?
I realized my writing had to embody a school standard
At that point, my honest body of work was slandered.
I became a girl when I knew I could write
But I‚Äôll become a woman when I really see through the desk light
I‚Äôm confined to a sheet of paper‚Äôs red and blue borders
I need to learn what free speech is, when to disobey orders
For me, being a girl is as simple as writing one line
Being a woman is about writing a poem that I can really call mine.