In 2012 the United Nations commemorated October 11 as International Day of the Girl, an annual day to highlight and address girls’ needs and challenges, as well as promote their empowerment and human rights. This year St. Louis will celebrate International Day of the Girl with a special event at the Missouri History Museum on Friday morning, October 11.
Event organizer Tracie Berry-McGhee notes, “International Day of the Girl is important because it celebrates positivity. Girls historically have been told that they should be seen and not heard. Girls need to know that they can change the world and are keepers of our community.”
Berry-McGhee founded SistaKeeper Empowerment Center, a culturally relevant mentoring program, in 2002 and later created the I Define ME Movement. Both organizations are based in St. Louis.
“The I Define ME Movement was birthed out of a need for girls to know that society doesn’t define them. Girls should define their voices and define their stories by speaking to issues that impact them and their communities,” she explains.
“In combination with the images they view on TV and in other popular media, the resounding perception is that girls are valued for their physical traits and bodily characteristics. Despite the emphasis in recent years on changing that narrative, the majority of adolescent girls are receiving the message that they are less represented, less powerful, less safe, and overall less valued than boys.”
For International Day of the Girl, Berry-McGhee’s target audience is middle school girls in grades six to eight.
“We will be focusing our efforts to champion equal representation for young women in the media. We want to call out discrimination and stereotyping on screen, in print, and in advertising to make room for stories of girls’ power and achievements,” she says. “We want girls to know that regardless of your color, race, religion, or economic status, you can rewrite your story.”
Berry-McGhee notes that the International Day of the Girl celebration in St. Louis is unique because it will include an “I Define ME” walk from the Muny to the Missouri History Museum and a symposium for middle-school girls from various local districts like Parkway, Rockwood, and Ferguson-Florissant, as well as LaSalle Middle School, City Academy, and other schools. Homeschooling groups are welcome as well. Participants should arrive at the Muny by 8 a.m., wear bright colors, and bring a water bottle. The walk will begin promptly at 8:30 a.m.
Afterward, girls and women from across the region will attend a Girl Symposium in the Lee Auditorium at the Museum, starting at 9 a.m.
“Girls will take the I Define ME pledge and hear I Define ME girl poetry. Local women leaders from St. Louis will share their stories, and our I Define ME Girl Ambassador will speak. Girls will leave empowered to define their voices and rewrite their stories,” Berry-McGhee says.
“If you are a woman leader or have a woman-owned business, you are welcome to join us for the walk and the symposium or follow the hashtag #rewriteherstory on social media.”
“Girls who take the I Define ME pledge understand the value of self-awareness, academic excellence, and positive community engagement,” adds Berry-McGhee. “Our girls deal with negative images in society, bullying, being pushed out of school, teen pregnancy, and the many isms designed to devalue them, making them feel they are not enough. Our pledge allows girls to see that they define themselves inside and out.”
Berry-McGhee enjoys working with the Missouri Historical Society for this event.
“MHS is a pillar of the community,” she says. “It represents diversity in our community and is committed to showcasing local history. The museum is the perfect space for girls to stand on the steps of history and rewrite their stories. This partnership speaks volumes to the message we want the world to see: that our girls are truly defining themselves.”
Come to Forest Park to celebrate International Day of the Girl on Friday morning, October 11. Participants will walk from the Muny to the Missouri History Museum at 8:30 a.m. The Girl Symposium will take place in the museum’s Lee Auditorium from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
For more information about this event or the I Define ME Movement, email Tracie Berry-McGhee at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ellen Kunkelmann is associate editor at the Missouri Historical Society.