Though girls in different countries wear different clothes and follow different customs, in many ways they share the same thoughts and speak the same language.

Photo illustration of the girls of Girls Across Borders on Zoom.

Teens in Girls Across Borders Zoom together. Photo illustration.

 This article, by high school student Ama Okigbo, was produced out of News Decoder’s school partnership program. Ama is a student at The Thacher School, a News Decoder partner institution. Learn more about how News Decoder can work with your school.

The world is getting smaller, and yet we couldn’t be farther apart.

Because girls often face specific difficulties and barriers, I started Girls Across Borders with the hope of connecting girls from around the world and creating a sense of global community for young women.

Most girls struggle to find their voice and be true to themselves despite what society says they should be. We share many of the same insecurities about our bodies and finding our own purpose.

I thought that if girls from various parts of the world united, they could support each other and strive towards creating a more accepting society.

It doesn’t matter where they are from. We have similar challenges, hopes and goals. I believe that by connecting girls from diverse backgrounds and cultures, we can support each other and recognize our shared experiences despite our differences.

Through Girls Across Borders, girls can come together, educate and inform one another but also discuss issues concerning our world despite geographical and cultural boundaries.

Room to share on Zoom

Girls Across Borders is an online platform that connects girls from different countries. The platform provides a space for members to share ideas, learn about other cultures and work towards creating a more tolerant world.

The goal of the platform is to educate and empower girls and to promote cultural awareness and understanding.

The platform is still in its early stages, but it already has members in several countries, including the United Kingdom, Ghana, Germany, Nigeria, the United States, Russia and China. I hope to continue growing the group and make a positive impact on the world through dialogue, learning and social impact.

In monthly Zoom meetings, members discuss important topics such as gender inequality, peer pressure, learning to save, getting internships, female health, social media’s influence and human rights issues.

Our monthly Zoom calls and a WhatsApp group are our only online forums, but we plan to use other platforms as well. For now, membership is by referral. Our members recommend girls they feel have something to contribute or are affiliated with a trusted source (a school, girls’ organization etc.). New members must have someone that can vouch for them.

Ensuring a safe space for sharing

During our calls, we use our cameras to prevent anyone from joining using a false identity. In the coming months, we plan to have our “Bring A Friend” session, where members bring friends to the Zoom call. This way, we can grow our membership based on personal relationships or connections.

As we grow and have more members, we plan to have physical and virtual sessions in different locations, hold group activities or attend events.

I started Girls Across Borders to create a safe and positive space for girls from different countries to come together and form connections.

We worry so much about what people will think about us, and how people will respond to our views.

At Girls Across Borders, we can express ourselves without being judged. We need positive spaces where our opinions count, where we can agree to disagree and where we can be confident to admit our insecurities or ignorance.

Beyond pretence and peer pressure

This space is so important because there are few spaces where we can truly be ourselves. In school, we can be expected to be a certain way. At home, there are many expectations of us. But in Girls Across Borders, we can be ourselves. We can support each other and show that girls can unite to uplift each other. We don’t always bring each other down.

I leveraged my connections to launch and expand Girls Across Borders. Initially, it was challenging locating girls from various countries, cultural backgrounds and socioeconomic statuses, as one of the core objectives of Girls Across Borders is to embrace diversity and a diversity of opinions.

To that end, I am making connections with more international organizations to reach a greater number of girls. This is a key step in developing the platform, as it will result in a wider network of girls. With the help of these connections, Girls Across Borders can continue to grow and have a greater impact, such as mobilizing across borders to address global and local issues.

We have accomplished so much in a short amount of time. But we still have to solve a number of challenges. The issue surrounding censorship in some countries was discussed in one of our Zoom calls. We will try to be as open as possible, and we hope that our members will be free to join even if they are living in a repressive country.

But we also want them to be safe and not put themselves in danger.

The potential for a powerful platform

Planning around time zones can be a challenge, especially when girls are unable to attend because it is too late or too early for them. As a solution, we had to split our monthly call into two just so people in different time zones could join. For now, it hasn’t been a big problem, but I am sure we will gradually move toward sessions by time zone. We can also share the Zoom recording on our WhatsApp group for those who couldn’t join.

We need supporters who can attend select sessions to teach us about a wide range of topics — writing a CV, leadership skills, gender mainstreaming, mental health etc.

Girls Across Borders also needs to engage new members to broaden the scope of our conversations, views and initiatives. Our goal is to grow across borders and have an online community of young female voices committed and inspired to use their voices and actions for personal growth and for the greater good.

Girls Across Borders has the potential to be a powerful platform for girls by promoting tolerance, education and empowerment.

Three questions to consider:

  1. What are some challenges girls share even when they live in different countries?
  2. What are some of the problems Girls Across Borders faces in trying to connect girls in different parts of the world?
  3. In what ways might someone who lives in a very different culture understand the problems you experience?
Ama Okigbo
Ama Okigbo is in her second year at The Thacher School. She is a published poet and passionate about gender, climate and social justice.
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