The webinar, entitled “Reaching for the STARS: Safeguarding the Creativity, Security, and Safety of our Girls,” highlighted girls who are reaching for the STARS (Science, Technology and the Arts, Realizing Success), toward a just, inclusive, and sustainable future.
Pauline Richards, a member of parliament from Victoria, Australia, expressed her excitement and sense of solidarity with the young speakers. “I’m certainly feeling incredibly energized,” she said. She also described successful legislative interventions in Victoria to strengthen women’s rights and end “period poverty” by providing sanitary supplies for women.
Sheza Sharafath Yoosuf, along with many other speakers, highlighted the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on their digital lives. Previously technology had slowly risen, she said, “But only with the onset of the pandemic has it spiraled into something much greater,” she said. “Thus, the importance of digital technology in accelerating society cannot be ignored.”
Kaylie Kennedy spoke about the inequity women and girls face in creative fields. “Unfortunately there are still many people who are not supportive of women entering into the creative industry today,” she said, citing results from a survey that showed much lower figures for women compared to men becoming inventors or going into other creative fields. “One reason for such a shocking result is due to the lack of female role models and support in the creative industry,” she said.
Wakisa Chikadza, 11, took the stance that, if women have the opportunity to learn about technology, they will be well-equipped to advance. “If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything,” she said. “I have a can-do attitude; I am known for being tech-smart.”
Shaima Sharafath Yoosuf, 7, shared her dreams of becoming an astronaut. “Astronauts use technology to know which buttons to press in the spacecraft,” she said. “I am surprised that some girls don't have the same opportunity as me. Why don’t more women become astronauts?”
Kirisome Lam, 16, spoke of his own dreams of becoming a rugby star—and also how technology helps him stay close to his family. “Respect for girls and women was embedded in me from a very young age, and most of all I value relationships,” he said. He speaks regularly with his grandmother in Samoa online, and also offered a pledge, repeated by the audience, full of practical behaviors that show the values that frame an equitable world.
Abigail Esther Mphande, 9, is an author, speaker, and entrepreneur who lives by a special mantra: “Confidence is your superpower.” She related how she uses text technology to speak to her grandfather, who is hard of hearing, and also advised her peers that, if they don’t feel safe on the internet, they need to talk to an adult.
Shabeeb Sharafath Yoosuf spoke of the lack of opportunity for women in sports. Very passionate about cricket, he challenged the audience to name a single woman cricketer. They could not. “My little sister also enjoys playing cricket and I want her to have the same opportunity I do,” he said.
Zhara Halabi., 14, spoke of how refugees who ended up swimming in the sea for hours as they traveled from Syria to Germany inspired her to excel in swimming. “My sister and I very fortunately started to learn to swim as toddlers,” she said. “Can you imagine swimming in cold, choppy seawater for three hours?”
Tabitha Mwafulirwa, who spoke from Malawi, considers herself an artist. “I love to knit, paint, collect rocks, and sculpt,” she said. She collects and cleans rocks to make jewelry and other creations—but it’s very hard. “I first take this dirty rock and clean it,” she said, showing via video from Malawi the small brush she uses. She wished for a machine—widely available in other countries—to help her, and invited the audience to close their eyes and dream with her.
The webinar was co-organized by the World Council of Churches, Casey Hearing, GirlForce Victoria, AfriAus iLEAC with their partners PAADN Gender of Pan African Australasian Diaspora Network, Thimlela-STREAM, Kawelo Lawyers, RKM, Oceania Office-Gagana ole Moana, Victoria Association of Malawians and Friends, IWPG-Australia and Ecumenical Women at the UN.