The Power of Girls’ Voices

By Denise Raquel Dunning – Founder + Executive Director

As we look forward to celebrating International Day of the Girl on October 11, I am continually inspired by the power and resilience of Rise Up girl leaders around the world.

Meet Peris, a 14-year-old Masai girl who is a powerful advocate and activist working to keep Kenyan girls in school. Peris is 1 of 24 girls participating in the Girls Voices Initiative (GVI), a partnership between Rise Up and the Center for the Study of Adolescence (CSA), to enable girls to raise their voices and stand up for change. With support from Rise Up and CSA, Peris and these 24 girl leaders are advocating for legislation to bring an end to female genital mutilation (FGM) in Kenya.

Here is Peris’ story, in her own words:

“I was inspired to work on issues affecting girls in my community because girls have been undergoing many problems including Female Genital Mutilation, early marriage, teenage pregnancies, and dropping out of school. I then applied to the GVI program because I knew that girls have rights and I wanted to learn how to ensure other girls know this too, as well as fight for their rights.

I was accepted and felt happy that I will be bringing change to my community and ensuring girls learn their rights and the dangers of FGM. I attended the training and learned that a girl was not put on this earth to be invisible and not given life only to belong to someone else. I learned that girls can also be confident in their future and focus forward as the boys can do. I also learned that I can speak up for girls’ rights. It changed me and allowed me to know that I have a voice and I can educate my parents and the community on the rights of the girl and speak to my leaders to stop FGM and early marriage. My hope for girls in Kajiado in the future is to no longer be scared and use their voices to stop FGM and early marriage. I will know I am successful in helping girls in my community when I see them speaking up against these challenges and I would also like to see them changing their lives and their sisters’ lives.”

Peris and the girl leaders in Kenya achieved a big win in July when government decision-makers in Kajiado County agreed to implement Kenya’s Female Genital Mutilation Act (2011), which prohibits FGM in Kenya. Learn more about Peris and the Girls Voices Initiative advocacy success here.