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Esther reminds us what can happen when girls embrace their inner strength

International Day of the Girl Child: Promoting a different future.

Daneal Lightner, content writer

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“For four years, I lost who I was.” Esther’s voice shook and her eyes welled as she recalled the pain she’d faced.

At Bethany, we believe that when given the tools, skills, and knowledge, anyone can be empowered to thrive. Yet we recognize that for many, it isn’t easy. Overcoming the challenges many children, especially girls, can face takes grit, resilience, and faith.

And Esther’s journey is no exception.

Today, we celebrate International Day of the Girl Child and recognize her resilience and the resilience of so many other young girls around the world, who face and overcome remarkable challenges.

Finding solace in creativity

From an early age, Esther loved to draw and sketch. Growing up in northern Ghana, she found time for her passion between chores and helping support her family. Esther was happy. Her artistic talent shined brightly. She’d tell anyone who would listen that one day, she’d become a fashion designer.

But when she was 14 years old, darkness found her. Her father, whom she loved and adored, tragically and suddenly passed away. She was left with a profound void. Who would she turn to? Who could she lean on? Who would teach her? Who would provide for her?

Shrouded in grief, Esther put down her pencil and paintbrush. She couldn’t find joy. Peace eluded her. She explains, “For four years, I lost who I was.”

Esther’s mother and brothers stepped up to provide income for the family. Esther and her sister were plunged into a world of responsibility taking care of the boys, their mom, and the household.

While the boys learned practical life skills needed to enter the world and provide for their family, the girls were tasked with cooking, cleaning, and tending the home. “It’s been difficult taking care of my brothers. Doing the chores was up to my sister and I.”

Esther’s chores and daily responsibilities drummed on. As always, amid grief and loss, life carries on.

Rediscovering joy through passion

Esther’s family struggled on her mother’s single income. Her mother knew they could not continue this way. She found courage to redefine herself, to make a new start for herself and her family. She enrolled in Bethany’s family preservation and empowerment program.

Then, Bethany’s youth resilience support group in Ghana issued a contest, asking youth to capture a video of what brings them joy.

Esther thought, “What brings me joy?” Somewhere deep inside she knew the answer. She dusted off her paints and paintbrush and got to work.

The relief and solace she felt surprised her. She hadn’t realized how much she missed art, or how much she needed it.

“The contest reminded me of what really makes me happy.”

She felt the glow of her creative spirit rekindling.

A new start

Esther continued to paint, draw, and sketch. She quickly rediscovered her passion and talent. Her art helped her express herself. It cast a light into dark moments.

She learned new skills in managing her grief and developing life skills through Bethany’s Youth Strong Summer Camps.

Eventually, she embraced what had always been inside her and took a bold step forward. With Bethany’s help, she enrolled in fashion school.

As she stepped through the doors of the fashion institute for the first time, it was more than a step forward in her career. It was a stride toward reclaiming her identity. It was a step forward in finding the inner peace and strength we all need to thrive.

And now, becoming a fashion designer was more than a dream once turned cold—it was a real possibility.

I had a big goal of becoming a fashion designer while growing up. Now I’m determined to be one in the next five years. I’m learning my trade now, how to set up my business, and how to handle it.

But when so much is expected of girls, finding time to chase a dream and build a career can be next to impossible.

“As a girl, learning a trade is difficult. I must focus on my education now, not working around the house.”

But Esther is determined to make a future for herself. A future that will bring her joy, independence, and prosperity.

International Day of the Girl Child

Esther’s story highlights the inequalities girls around the world face. Too many have limited access to education, lack of training, high unemployment, domestic violence, and forced child labor.

Globally, • 1 in every 4 girls, versus 1 in every 10 boys, are uneducated, unemployed, and lack skills to earn an income • Girls ages 10 to 14 spend nearly double the time on household chores compared to boys their age • 96% of children who are trafficked are girls • Uneducated women often marry young and are more vulnerable to domestic violence, creating a generational and cyclical expectation of how women should be treated

But together, we can tackle these inequalities. We can make the world a better, brighter place for girls to grow up. Together, we can give them a place and an opportunity to thrive.

International Day of the Girl Child is a small reminder of what can happen when girls are empowered. When they embrace their inner strength and resilience, girls have the power to change the course of generations.

When we promote gender equality and stand for the rights of girls around the world, we have the power to break cycles of poverty, eliminate gender-based violence, and create a more equitable future for everyone.

The future can be bright

Esther used her inner strengths and talents to pull herself out of overwhelming grief. She just needed a little help to find them again.

Of the women and girls in her life, Esther says,

My mom inspires me with her strength and courage. When it comes to her business, she doesn’t give up. She cares a lot about her work and her kids. My sister is a very hard worker and a good-hearted person. She’s been very supportive of me. They’ve both helped me a lot with everything we’ve gone through.

Esther and her family symbolize the indomitable spirit of girls everywhere and the change we will see when they find and harness it. Esther reminds us that in the tapestry of life, it’s the human spirit that adds the most vibrant strokes.

She wants to remind girls everywhere, “every girl has a dream and no matter what, be strong and always keep hope, because that dream is very important.”

In honor of Esther and girls like her around the world, let’s commit to building a future where every girl has the opportunity to shine, fulfill her potential, and thrive. If we do, the future will be bright.

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