Sharing personal stories, celebrating the International Day of the Girl
Every year, on October 11, UNICEF marks the International Day of the Girl, promoting gender equality and equal opportunities for girls around the world. This year, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, we aim to celebrate it online and reimagine a better world inspired by adolescent girls.
Here is Ilinca's story.
"Sometimes, you really have to be loud in order to be heard"
Society changes people. Yes, it really changes them. Sometimes it brings them down. It never gives them the means through which they can recover their wings and fly even higher. I was given the chance to „share” my story with other people, to describe the unique way in which I chose to live my life, also by motivating those around me. I couldn’t imagine that it would be so difficult. So difficult to acknowledge what makes me unique.. Why? I tend to look around me, to compare myself to others, to set up barriers and to believe that I will never achieve my goals. Trust. The divine quality that is always taken from us by the society of “similar robots”. In a world of similarities, like a black and white movie, I want to believe that I followed the tougher path, that I didn’t listen to others and that I always fought to become who I am now. And my story begins here.
Even since I was a little girl I liked talking very much. I was often told I should keep some of my ideas for the days to come, but I always found something new to hold onto. I liked to be a group leader, to listen to everyone’s ideas and, then, to represent them with pride. But most of the time, almost all of them chose a boy to speak in their name, symbolising power and trust. Well, sometimes, you really have to be loud in order to be heard. All of this was happening when I was in primary school. I began to work harder, in order to gain the others’ trust, to exercise diction at home, when nobody could see me or hear me, to adjust my posture and the position of my body, in order to attain what I desired. And nothing was in vain. I remember that later I was chosen as spokesperson for grades 1-4. However insignificant this achievement may seem, now, by analysing the details of that experience , I realize that it was a first step. A bold step, I could say, because I set myself not barriers, but high targets for my age.
Years passed on and together with them the time I was saving for myself passed as well. I began focusing on school a lot, I also gave up the sport I was practicing, just to achieve excellent results. However, from the beginning of last year, I realised that participation and active implication can, first of all, help you rediscover yourself, but also to improve yourself. I have had the opportunity of applying for a membership in the Romanian Children’s Board, a child-led group supported by UNICEF. Of course, I discouraged myself a lot. I thought that, surely, many other children were much more suitable than me. But it costs nothing to try, right? And I was extremely surprised and happy to find out that I was chosen. A thing which I am trying to build is the trust in myself, although sometimes it doesn’t seem that I am lacking it. But gaining one’s trust has always seemed a wonderful thing. So, I decided to give it my all, so as not to disappoint and to demonstrate that they haven’t made the wrong choice.
I began to take interest in fields I’ve never explored before, like advocacy, civic engagement or politics. Yes, I know, not typical for a girl, least of all in the small town where I come from, but this fact didn’t discourage me. On the contrary, it proved to me that I must continue. And so, I did.
Just like speaking, a skill that took shape ever since my childhood, was my affinity for school. I loved to learn new things, to develop myself and to gradually understand the world around me. I always had an inclination towards scientific domains, being very interested in biology, physics and chemistry. At the same time, while preparing for the Physics Olympiad, I noticed that the boys in our study group understood more easily each information and each method of solving the problems. I know it took me whole hours to understand the mechanism behind some instruments which I used, sacrificing hours of sleep in order to solve problem after problem, just so I wouldn’t feel inferior to them. I also can’t forget the Olympiad days. Days in which not even six pairs of gloves could hide the tremor in my hands because of all the emotions involved. There were always blockages. I always encountered something that made my brain stop, even just for a few seconds. Suddenly, I couldn’t think of the problem itself, of how to solve it, and instead I was worrying about the others’ opinion of me when I would tell them that I didn’t know what to write. Those were the moments when my legs started moving a lot, my hands were sweating more and more, notching, with my head raised, how the others were taking notes on their draft sheet and on their exam sheet. Of course, they probably hadn’t even reached the subject I had in front of me, but I always thought that way, knowing that others would surely succeed, but I wouldn’t. I was, however, ambitious. I would slap my hands, gently slap my face and continue. The supervising teachers probably always looked at me a little strangely, but at least this way I could regain my motivation.
Parallel to my passion for the exact sciences, I cultivated a great delight in writing. I felt free when I put my thoughts on paper. I knew I was, in a way, listened to by the piece of paper and the pen, as they were led by me. I also participated in competitions. And also won prizes. Along with these results, of course, external voices always appear and “advise” you to remain in your comfort zone. “But would you not want to dedicate your entire life to writing?”, “Do you not see that you’re really good at it?” were only some of the messages which I encountered. Science was often presented to me as a domain specific to men. They’ve given me a list of physics and chemistry geniuses that were, of course, men. Why would anybody think of Marie Curie? Or perhaps Rosalind Franklin, Geertruida de Haas-Lorentz? On the other hand, it’s understandable that we don’t have many great names to recall, because women were never encouraged to develop their skills in these areas. However, names that are giving me hope, people that I know and this is enough for me, are for me true models, whose studies and discoveries leave no room for interpretations.
“A woman is not strong enough to do this”, “I was thinking that something simpler would suit you better, not something at this level.” They are just words. But these words weigh more than what someone could say in an entire novel.
My first contact with human anatomy was like a lightning bolt that totally struck me. It was extraordinary to realise how passionate I am about such things, so I decided that this is truly my path. Although it may seem premature, I am quite drawn to surgery. “A woman is not strong enough to do this”, “I was thinking that something simpler would suit you better, not something at this level.” They are just words. But these words weigh more than what someone could say in an entire novel. Women shouldn’t complicate themselves, right? The simpler, the better. Not for me, however. I’ve always liked to have high aims and, despite this, for them to be achievable. Some real aims that could be achieved. There were others who succeeded. Why couldn’t I? And, even if there was nobody else who could do it, don’t choose an already treaded path out of commodity. You must create a track, like a road, to go wherever you want to go.
And so, from having nothing to say, I ended up farther than I expected. Reading again what I just wrote, I realised that society has never discouraged me directly, has not told me that I would not succeed, but offered me some mediators that would make me discourage myself. However, I also remember those few people, colleagues who, when having the chance, told me that they admired how hardworking I am. And this made me realize that someone somewhere really looks at you, analyses you and can even take you as an example.
Sometimes you may feel worn-out. And it’s normal. Sometimes people will not understand you. And it’s perfectly normal. Don’t forget that you are unique. Don’t forget that at one point nobody will be by your side but yourself. Flourish, develop and love yourself. Someday, you will be thankful to yourself. Fly higher and higher, because you can!
About Ilinca (15 years old)
I am Ilinca, a girl quite keen on volunteering, always willing to get involved and to help others, through any way possible. Since childhood, I have developed a passion for the academic part, being especially fascinated about the natural sciences, such as biology and chemistry, domains whose information I can easily assimilate and understand. I’ve always liked to develop myself, being as ambitious and sedulous as possible, trying to surround myself with special people, who motivate me to continuously evolve, acquiring ideas and mindsets. Even though I am a novice, being a member of the Romanian Children’s Board has made me adore playing an active role in numerous projects and work groups, trying to ensure, along with my colleagues, that child participation is not only a wish, but also a reality. I would describe myself as being truly driven and passionate about life, always eager for “more”, in love with others’ smiles and happiness.