View the photos from campaign partners of their activities for empowerment of girls!
The universally recognized butterfly hand gesture has been named the official hand symbol of the Asian Girl Campaign. The campaign, which seeks to make the world a better place through the empowerment of girls, was established in 2012 by the Garden of Hope Foundation to promote the United Nation’s International Day of the Girl, which falls on October 11 every year.
Change Leads to Change
The butterfly gesture was chosen for the Asian Girl Campaign because the changes butterflies go through in their lives symbolize the journey abused girls take during their recovery. Personal change leads to change in society and change in society leads to personal change, and if this happens enough, it can grow into a revolution. The Garden of Hope Foundation is hoping the new butterfly hand gesture will help create a “change to change” revolution for girls across Asia.
Just as colorful butterflies begin their lives as ugly caterpillars, many girls across Asia live ugly lives of discrimination and abuse. When they begin to receive help, they enter cocoons of protection against violence, therapy and shelter. Just like butterflies, they transform inside their cocoons and emerge as very different creatures.
When butterflies leave their cocoons, they are free from their old lives and can fly wherever they want. They are not safe from danger, though, as their delicate wings leave them vulnerable. Hence, butterflies, and girls, too, should unite to find safety in numbers.
The final reason the butterfly is a good symbol for the Asian Girl Campaign is something called the butterfly effect. Although a butterfly flapping its wings is not very powerful, the energy produced by a group of butterflies could cause a change on the other side of the world.
Girls may not appear to be strong or influential, but their actions can have wide-reaching consequences. If enough of them join together, there’s no limit to changes they can produce in the world.
Dear VIPs, distinguished guests, representatives from the media and most important- dear girls from both Taiwan and Asia.It is a true honor for me to be here among so many outstanding young females and all the VIP’s and I welcome you to the celebration of the 1st International Day of the Girl Child.
Maybe you think right now, shouldn’t there be a woman standing here on this stage since there are so many inspiring and successful women out there fighting for female empowerment and gender equality? Looking at the program I have founded in Cambodia- the SALT Mighty Girls, I am sure that next year it will be one of them holding a speech like this.
But for today I am here and there is also a good reason for a man to open an event that celebrates the achievement of girls/women in Asia: Gender equality and female empowerment are not only about women. It’s about how I, as a man and a leader, and all those men out there look at women. It’s about the respect that we have for them. We need to change the attitude of men just as much as we need to empower girls and women. Because only together will we be able to create a just and successful society.
You might ask right now- why does this man believe in the importance of empowering and respecting girls? So please allow me to just briefly share with you my story.
In 2003 I arrived in Cambodia and started as a volunteer and teacher to be involved in many different environments. In 2006 I founded the SALT Academy that brings through the beautiful game of football life skills, leadership training and social change into the communities that are still recovering from genocide. Little attention did I give to the girls, and before my first visits to Asia I remember telling my friends that Girls Football is a waste of time.
After a successful first season with lots of excited boys I raised the idea to also start a girl’s league and to promote the empowerment of girls. The response of my staff was eye-opening. Well educated and talented young men all refused to even think about it and argued that girls don’t have the right to be happy, should not waste their time with sports but help at home and be pretty so they can get married away. I then realized that I needed to do something about this and we started in 2008 our first girls’ teams. I personally stopped coaching boys and dedicated my full energy to promote girls’ football.
A year later we had a team that for the very first time represented Cambodia in a friendly game against Laos. But the small success was at risk. Literally in front of my eyes, a good player got sold to Thailand into slavery- a very common problem in our area- and I promised myself in 2010 that I would find a way to provide more than football and life skills but also shelter and education. This was the start of our program “the Mighty Girls”. These young female football players are all receiving best education, best football training in a safe environment and help as coaches to promote the benefits of football. We have in many cases helped girls to stay in school and not be trafficked, and sometimes also helped girls to reintegrate after time in Thailand. Girl’s football in our region is now accepted and the participation increased in the last year by 300% because of the role models we have- our Mighty Girls. Now over 400 girls play in our program and our team is a National Champion as well as making up 90% of the National Team.
This is my story and how I came to believe that girls should be treated equally. Not that I ever lacked the respect for girls before- but it was until I made a personal discovery of what really is going on in the world that I decided that I want to make a difference.
I hope many of you can make a personal discovery and see how the girls need our respect and support to reach their potential.
(The above is the transcript of Samuel Schweingruber’s speech for the opening ceremony of the 1st Asian Girl Campaign and 10th Formosa Daughter’s Award Ceremony in 2012.)