Thanks to Dr Peter who gave me the opportunity. It’s a great honor for me to be invited to the Celebration of the third International Day of the Girl Child in Beijing. The event was held by Plan, UN Women and Beijing Cultural Development Center for Rural Women on October 10th. This year’s topic is hear our voices. I, as a girl representative from International Women’s Academy at Suzhou, made a ten-minute speech about my experiences of being involved in the International Women’s Academy, in particular my role as the Performance Arts Director of the IWA at Dulwich International High School Suzhou.
It was a pleasure to learn the global campaign ‘Because I am a girl’ and sad to know that so many girls and women are being treated unequally from the reports. I felt powerless as I could only looked at the screen and their watery eyes. The videos Plan made were very touching; one member of the UN Women cried. After listening to the stories of three girls from Shan Xi, I was motivated again to try and make positive changes. Now I want to say I am lucky and proud that I am a girl.
At the end of the celebration, I met Wang Liping, one female Olympic champion. She shared her story with us; she is a great woman with passion determination and love. All the successful women at the event are role models for me and I am so obliged to be there with them.
In addition, I visited the UN house in Beijing on the same day. I was so excited to see where the UN staff work and meet them. Thanks Kate for the invitation.
Below is the speech I made at the event. I briefly introduces my experiences of being involved in International Women’a Academy and discusses my view on girls’ rights.
Good Afternoon, ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure to be here today on the International Day of the Girl Child. My name is Edie and today I’m going to talk to you about my experiences of being involved in the International Women’s Academy, in particular my role as the Performance Arts Director of International Women’s Academy, at Dulwich college international high school in Suzhou. IWA is a global organization whose message is to empower the future leaders of science, business and technology. Our main focus is on ‘women’, but men are more than welcome to join us. We have clubs set up in China, New York, Ghana and etc. I am involved in IWASuzhouDulwichCollege but I also am running my own project called Iwa standing on top of the world. Why standing on top of the world? Dr. Peter, the co-founder of IWA, asked me “what’s your dream” when we first sat down and actually talked. I had a lot of dreams when I was little; I wanted to be a diplomat; I wanted to be a writer; I wanted to be a Korean pop star… But I told Peter that my main dream now, was that I wanted to be famous. It’s hard to describe or explain. I just felt I was so ordinary. I felt like I have to be unique so that everyone will know my name. Therefore the top of the world would be the best position for people to spot me.
The first ever activity I took part in with IWA was the Guizhou project, a program of IWA- Big Mountain Foundation. It’s a club in ShanghaiHigh School. Before I went to Baibi village in Guizhou to teach, my impression of children in the mountains of China was from an old advertisement on TV, a girl staring at the blackboard with a pair of enormous eyes keen to acquire precious knowledge. She seemed so miserable in the picture. So I was stressed. How am I going to teach the students? How can I help them? Especially because I haven’t even finished my high school. However, when I arrived, I saw smiles and I heard laughter, and the noises of the children inspired me. In my first math class I only had 6 students and three boys sneaked out of the classroom after around 5 minutes. So I taught three girls in grade 4 simple math calculations like 15 times 58. I think they were obsessed with math because after they finished their question sheets I made for each of them, they put up their hands and shouted, “I finished I finished Check this and give me more questions”. So I had a wonderful time teaching the girls and it was easier than I originally thought.
After the trip I started planning my high school dance competition. Partly the competition is a stage I hope every talented dancer can stand and perform on, but still more it’s an event to raise money for May and Mia, two girls in Baibi, Guizhou to continue their study. After delivering my final speech on the stage at the end of my competition, I was thinking, “So that is it Wow.” When all the lights shone on me, it was like I was in a fairy tale, for a minute everything seemed soft thin and dreamy. It reminded me of one of the miraculous nights I experienced when I went to Guizhou. I remember it all so clearly, it was August ninth 2013, I was lying down on the grass surrounded by vast mountains, counting the shooting stars passing by. I felt boundless and infinite, like anything was possible.
After the dance competition, I realized that this was the first time I enjoyed attention and applause as an organizer. It was a lot of hard work to make the competition happen. It’s tough; however, I am truly grateful to the numerous people who’ve supported and helped me. I even became famous – the school newsletter reported my event and I became famous in our school. I was also interviewed by a local journalist and the article about me was on the internet for people to read. To be honest this little slice of fame scared me, I was afraid that if I have too much I would get complacent and then I would loose my drive, so I reconsidered my answer to the question do I want to be famous? Yes. Yes but in a different way. Now I want to be a celebrated great person who inspires people like Malala (the young Pakistani education activist). I’m currently reading her book I AM MALALA. Malala is only 6 days older than me and when we were sixteen, she was already making a speech at the UN. I think she is an amazing girl. Though I might not be as legendary as she is, I hope I could help as many people as I can. IWA is like a platform for me, to try and make positive changes. Lilian Chu, the founder of IWA-New York, is helping me to plan my next project, which is going to be a global online dance competition, with me. I don’t know if we can make it happen but IWA has taught me to dream big. I’m certain I want to do something huge when I am still young, idealistic and motivated.
This summer I went back to Baibi VillageGuizhou with 4700 yuan I raised for May and Mia. They can continue their high school now.
In addition, this time I was recognized by two girls Michelle and Rachel I taught last year. I was stunned that they noticed I looked familiar. It was in that moment that I promised myself this would be a life-long project and I will try not to break it. I hope I could stand by the children and see them grow up.
So these are parts of my experience while working with IWA. I was so excited when I received the invitation to come and speak at this celebration of the International Day of the Girl Child. All the successful ladies here are role models for me. I strongly believe that I am not different because I am a girl. I believe I am capable of doing everything that a boy can do. Like Emma Watson said in her speech, “My parents did not love me less because I was born a daughter; my school did not limit me because I was a girl”, I need to thank everyone in my life because I have been treated equally, but not everyone is so lucky. Joining IWA has really changed my perspective of the world. Before IWA, I was waiting for some rare opportunities to come my way. However the more I have done, the more I realize opportunities are everywhere but I have to find them and seize them myself. Here I need to thank Dr Peter for the chance he provided.
Now I want to say I am lucky because I am a girl. I am proud because I am a girl. I think that girls have many interesting stories to tell. Just because we are young, just because we are girls doesn’t mean that our voices shouldn’t be heard.
In the end, I hope to live my life by the motto: My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor and some style.
They are amazing photographers!
Before my 2nd trip, I was interviewed by an actual reporter from 名城苏州(abroad.2500sz.com) because of my dance competition and Guizhou project. This is the link to the article: http://abroad.2500sz.com/cglx/lxzx/2014-7-31/1661855.shtml?from=message&isappinstalled=1
Here’re some thoughts I wrote in Chinese for him：
看到后会无期的海报上写着“重逢是告别最好的时机” 我认真读了好多遍来确认应该在哪里停顿 然后我决定应该是在告别和最好的中间
第二次来到白碧村 山和云还是去年记忆里储存下来的样子 不过孩子们变了 都变漂亮了 变开朗了 大概是因为光一年暑假里就会来好几拨志愿者或体验者的原因
因为村里穷的人家没有其他通讯方式 入住白碧村江老师家的当天晚上 我们就出发和村支书一起走山路挨家挨户通知小孩们上课 李丽梅是去年上过我的数学课的一个长发女生 她在她家里昏暗到我看不清她的脸的灯光下对我说 姐姐你好眼熟啊 说我想哭太矫情做作了 但那个时候我决定了我会再来这里
李秋妹Rachel换了新发型 也终于有了新衣服 Rachel不记得我了 她只是一直不停地问我为什么去年的Annie姐姐没来
像一起去的同学说的 原来第二年才重要 所以我们还会有第三第四和以后的很多很多年
再次造访了May和Mia的家里 Mia还是很羞涩躲在一旁很少讲话 Mia的耳朵已经接受了一次检查并且一直有药 本来打算再带她去一次城里 但因为下雨 她坚持要等到不下雨 但那时候我已经早回来了 我吧我两次活动筹到的4300元(两次活动一共4700元 买了两幅羽毛球拍和)留给了同行的同学 2180用在Mia的高一学费 所以给了她2200 1500是May的学费 我为她们筹集的钱还剩600
我重点教了五个小孩 Rachel Michelle Harry Sherry Amy 还有一个很小的小男孩我取了名叫Jace 他还没上一年级 是来陪姐姐Ann的 她们都喜欢我出数学题 她们做 我再讲 因为年纪不同 我都是一人一批不一样的加减乘除题目 Sherry四年级是最聪明的 Michelle五年级是最粗心的 2乘8等于18
下课的时候我们最喜欢的游戏是躲猫猫 还有很多像大鱼吃小鱼 爬树 在篮球架下保持平衡之类的 最神奇的是Michelle和Harry教会了我找一种树叶吹出音调来
第二天上课到一半 一位老奶奶穿着当地苗族的绣花衣服带着一个四岁的小女孩找到我们班 拜托我们教她 但是她太小了所以只能旁听 不过很感谢村民的支持 本来很害怕他们会很厌烦一直来打扰的志愿者 老奶奶还一直谢我们 感觉很沉重 我们被寄托了那么多的希望
在贵州的时候一直下雨 第一次亲眼见到云雾缭绕 真的很美 走之前Rachel送了我薄荷色的纸飞机 Harry给了我一张写着爱的画 Michelle叫我一定要明年再来 Sherry只说了再见 Jace好像还不能理解“再见” Amy求我多拍几张拍立得给她 这样明年她也可以一眼认出我
江老师的妻子走之前拉着我的手一直不放坐在沙发上 问个不停 从我的家问到飞机 很喜欢土生土长的白碧人 她们的眼睛都亮晶晶的会发光
总感觉说太多就很做作 更可况也说不清楚 很开心很难过很激动很悲伤很失望 只要一想起那个小村落里有很多人记得我的名字 我就觉得离我当初像变得很有名的梦想近了一点 只是这个有时候也感觉毫无意义
我觉得我看懂了后会无期这部电影 至少我真的懂得重逢是告别最好的动机 停顿在告别和最好之间
但是这一次和白碧村告别 我们还有重逢 一定
每次想起来白碧村 都感觉Infinite 像壁花少年里Charlie站在行驶在隧道里的 放着他最爱的歌 坐着他最好的朋友和最爱的人的车里 因为隧道里的风太强烈 睁不开眼睛 因为黑暗里看到的太美好了 不敢睁开眼睛