When Magdalena Del Valle was thirteen, she saw a video of the speech Emma Watson delivered at the UN and, “at that moment, I felt like I had to do something to fight gender inequality”. This was the starting point for KidsForShe, an “an organization from kids for kids that would give young people the educational and physical resources to foster gender equality at their schools or with their communities”. We interviewed Magdalena about KidsForShe and what the biggest challenges are now for girls.
Magdelena started by creating a feminism club at her all-girls school in New York City, but quickly realised, “this could not possibly be the case everywhere else. I was living in a gender-equality utopia, but I still wanted to share my beliefs about gender equality with the rest of the world. I just didn’t know how”.
Fast forward one year, and she almost got the chance to meet Emma Watson herself. “This opportunity comes when my dad told me that some of his friends in Mexico invited him to a conference where Malala, Emma Watson, and others would speak (Malala via videoconference, but Emma was going to be physically there). My dad wanted me to go instead of him, and I happily accepted. In the weeks leading up to the conference, I made a plan to corner Emma and invite her to work on some sort of project with me–I figured if anyone could help me fight for gender equality on the international level, as I had been yearning to do for the past year, Emma would be able to help me. I filled a notebook with ideas if project proposals, and I even scripted a word-for-word introduction, knowing that I would probably freeze-up the second I came face-to-face with my childhood role model. The final project that I came up with and that I was going to propose was KidsForShe: An organization from kids for kids that would give young people the educational and physical resources to foster gender equality at their schools or with their communities”.
“When the day of the conference arrived, there was a huge snowstorm and my flight was cancelled. Emma herself had to cancel and the conference had to go on without her; meanwhile, I had to go on without the conference. I was extremely disappointed and spent about a month wallowing in what could have been my incredible project with Emma Watson. I wallowed so much, in fact, that when International Women’s Day came around, I couldn’t stand it. I HAD to act and still pursue my goal of reaching as many kids as I possibly could with the mission of learning about and fighting for gender equality. I called the UN (and was redirected about eight times) until I got a HeForShe employee’s email address. In the months to follow, I fine-tuned my proposal and shared it with HeforShe. When they told me they did not have a large enough team for a project like the one I was suggesting, I created the KidsForShe website myself and begged them to support it. Of course, the UN had a far bigger mission than accommodating a fourteen year old’s crazy ideas, but I kept working on the website by myself. I turned into a 501(c)3 in 2018, and it is now an organization that has clubs in thirty schools in Uganda, nine in Mexico, and five in the US”.
For Magdelena, the most rewarding part of KidsForShe has been working with girls from Uganda. “Every time I get videos or news from our clubs in Uganda, my heart does a happy-dance. I have never been to Uganda, but those girls are writing articles about menstruation and what it means to be a woman in Uganda for our blog, they are planting trees to celebrate International Women’s Day, and they’re singing about children being the future and the world’s responsibility to create a better world for them. I never expected my little project to reach a country so far away with girls who had undergone FGM, had HIV, lived in single-mother households, or had been [disowned] becouse of their gender. It is extremely rewarding to see how these communities in Uganda have embraced KidsForShe and made it an integral part of their lives”.
Organisations like KidsForShe and Girl Museum are more relevant now than ever, as “a lot of young people with an itch to change the world or to create a difference, but they don’t really know how. I think organizations like ours help give kids a voice in educating them about gender equality, but also in giving them the resources they need to truly influence their communities. Part of the reason I wanted an organization for kids was because I felt that the fight for gender-equality was only being fought by adults. I wanted to open up a space for kids to have the tools to become advocates and to be the agents of their own futures”.
We asked Magdalena what she thought the biggest challenges are now, and going forward, for girls. She said, “I’m not sure how to approach this question just because girls around the world are so different and they all have different ideas about what a problem even is. WHen I was thirteen, I thought the biggest problem girls faced was that they did not have a platform to share their voice and contribute to adult, world-changing discussions like the ones about gender equality. But working with Uganda taught me that girls’ problems there are female circimcision, lack of sanitary supplies, and a strong anti-gay sentiment. When I spoke to communities in Mexico, a big problem there was that a woman’s work in the home was not held at the same calibre as a man’s job outside the home. I think that a problem we all face is a lack of perspective. We only focus on our own problems instead of considering other women’s plights. Perhaps the real question is to ask how we approach all the different challenges that girls around the world are facing”.
Follow KidsForShe on Twitter or head to the KidsForShe website to find out how you can support them. Magdelena also wrote an article for Teen Vogue titled “Founding the Feminist Organization KidsForShe at Age 14 Taught Me What Feminism Means.”
Volunteer and Instagram Manager
Girl Museum Inc.