Yes All Girls

I've written before about our Mother/Daughter Bookclub, something I started three years ago wtih a few friends who had 9-year-old girls the same age. We all loved to read and thought it would be a fun way to explore young adult literature together. We've grown to 12 women and girls - six pairs of mamas and their daughters. Every two months a new pair picks a book for us to read and when completed, they host a potluck dinner and initiate the discussion questions. A few months ago one of the girls in our Mother/Daughter Bookclub picked I Am Malala : How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed The World. Lucy and I took turns reading chapters out loud together curled up in my bed each night. Malala's story was sad and hard for my privileged little white daughter in Idaho to wrap her head around. Hell, it's hard for me - an educated, intersectional feminist, middle-aged white mom - to wrap my head around. To help aid in that, the mother who hosted the bookclub that month worked with the owner of Taj Mahal, a popular Indian restaurant downtown Boise, to create us a meal from the food much like Malala and her friends - the other girls who wanted to badly to go to school - would eat in Pakistan. We had a blast drinking mango lassi and eating spicy lamb while talking about some hard stuff over dinner. Afterwards, we piled onto the couches in the living room to watch the documentary He Named Me Malala to help pull the story together - to give a face to the name and real people and footage to the heartbreaking and inspiring story she tells. A month later the girls got together again to host a yard sale and raised $100 to donate to the Malala Fund.

Malala's platform has been, since she was a very young child, that education is crucial for all girls. Despite being shot in the head and threatened with death, this brave young woman speaks and travels all over the world preaching her truth - that free, safe, quality education is the right of all girls. Too many girls are still shut out of school because they have to help raise their siblings, are married young, and denied their fundamental right to education.

And she knows, like we do, that when girls are educated, everyone benefits.

Boise is still one of the whitest places in the United States, but our diversity is growing in exponential ways. Our minds in this little quiet Idaho city are being broken open (along with our hearts) by differences in opinions and faiths, stories and skin colors. It's a beautiful place to raise a family today, in my opinion, because of these things. While we still have a long way to go in truly embracing and celebrating this diversity, there are a few amazing ways I sense a shift. One being the way Boise has become a respite for refugees like Malala from all over the world, many whose stories were recently told in a gorgeous photographic documentary exhibition, Stronger Shines The Light Inside, by Angie Smith. You can currently find the photos in various locations all over town (and this week on the pages of the New York Times). Many of them are young girls who came here with their families for safety, for freedom, and for education.

 Zahraa Naser, 18, center, in red hijab, at Boise High School with her sister, standing, left, and best friend (in blue on the bench), who is, like Zahraa, from Iraq, image by Angie Smith, courtesy of the New York Times, September 2016.

Zahraa Naser, 18, center, in red hijab, at Boise High School with her sister, standing, left, and best friend (in blue on the bench), who is, like Zahraa, from Iraq, image by Angie Smith, courtesy of the New York Times, September 2016.

I love to see this shift in Boise and I say it's about time. I love that my children get to grow up in a different Idaho than I did and a different Boise than these girls did. This is a historic photo that I own of the Boise High School girls tumbling team in 1933 on the front yard of the school. It's been hanging in the hallway of my home for years.

 Boise High School Girls Tumbling Team, c. 1933, courtesy of the Idaho State Archives & Library.

Boise High School Girls Tumbling Team, c. 1933, courtesy of the Idaho State Archives & Library.

When these girls attended Boise High School in the 1930s there were no hijabs in the hallways and they probably heard very few languages other than English spoken in the locker room. By most accounts, including some really awful language in historic Idaho Statesman newspaper articles, "foreigners" in Boise were looked at with a lot of contempt and disgust. Going to college was likely not something even on their own radar after graduation, despite the fact that they were likely well-to-do white girls.

But THESE white girls, also standing in front of Boise High School, represent a new era of young women in Boise in 2016. They interact with many of the girls like those featured in Smith's documentary project daily. They see them in the hallway and at the grocery store and in the lunchroom. And I hope they do more than just see them - I hope they can learn from them, hear their stories, be friends with them, and welcome them home.

 We tried to re-create the cool image from BHS in 2016 with our Mother/Daughter Bookclub this past Sunday. It's WAY HARDER than it looks.

We tried to re-create the cool image from BHS in 2016 with our Mother/Daughter Bookclub this past Sunday. It's WAY HARDER than it looks.

 Boise girls, 1933 and 2016. Outside Boise High School, downtown Boise. Top image courtesy of Idaho Historical Society Archives & Library.

Boise girls, 1933 and 2016. Outside Boise High School, downtown Boise. Top image courtesy of Idaho Historical Society Archives & Library.

Malala just put out a call to her supporters around the world to share photos of themselves with their friends at school- girls who are lucky and smart - to say #yesallgirls deserve to be educated. Seven years ago the Taliban took over her father's school in the Swat Valley in Pakistan and they fled their home to live as refugees. Today millions of girls want to return to school like Malala did. They've lost their homes, friends, and family and their chances to 12 years of education as a child are fading fast. Next week, prime ministers and presidents will gather in New York City for their annual meeting and the Malala Fund plans to display photos like ours here across the city - on billboards, bus stops, inside the United Nations - so that everywhere our leaders go they'll be reminded of their promise to all girls, especially refugee girls, for an education.

We're proud to stand up with Malala as a few women - young ones and their mothers - representing a little segment of Boise, Idaho, to say YES ALL GIRLS.

"We call upon our sisters around the world to be brave - the embrace the strength within themselves and realize their full potential."    -Malala Yousafzia