How to be a Voice for Women

Ms Katherine Mar, Head of Senior School

“I want every girl to know that her voice can change the world.” Malala Yousafzai made headlines in 2012 when, as a Pakistani school girl, she was shot by the Taliban for speaking out about the importance of girls’ education. She was taken to the United Kingdom for surgery that would save her life, and in 2014 made history as the youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, sharing the prize in the field of world peace with Kailash Satyarthi of India, who himself is an anti-child slavery and children’s education activist.

Malala told the world that she is not unique, her story is shared by many girls across the world. Malala is remarkable in her strength in speaking out against injustice, without reference to age or sex.

In Sydney and the eastern suburbs, we don’t experience the level of fearfulness and terror that girls in Malala’s situation face each day, and an education is often taken for granted – yet we know that girls do experience anxiety and self-doubt at times through their school lives and can struggle to find their voice.

I stand in awe of young women such as Malala, who have made the world sit up and listen. All girls can be inspired by the voices and role models of girls and women to remind them that they are our future, have a voice that is worthy and should be seen and heard.

In her book, Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, encourages girls and women to Lean In. It is an interesting place to start discussion. In the workplace, women too often question their own abilities and don’t put themselves forward unless they are 100 percent sure they meet job criteria, where men will do so when sure they meet 60 percent of criteria. What women tell themselves about their abilities affects how often they speak up. Teachers hear girls in class begin answers with, “I don’t know if this is right, but…”, despite encouragement that speaking up is okay.

In an educational setting, Carol Dweck’s research and work highlights the difference between a fixed and a growth mindset. Learning at Kambala is embedded with a philosophy that learning is not limited and that throughout life we will continue to learn, if only we are open to this and don’t place a ceiling on our learning. Mistakes are okay and are essential in the learning process.

So how can you help encourage your daughter to be a voice for women? Sandberg offers these tips:

  1. Coach girls to speak confidently:Modelling how to speak with confidence is an effective tool in encouraging confidence. Avoid framing opinions with apologies or disclaimers. Sandberg reminds us that it’s not just what you say that matters, but how you say it, too.
  2. Teach girls to navigate conflict:Sandberg recommends modelling honest and direct communication for your daughters. In difficult situations, encourage girls to talk to the people involved – not about them – and share your true feelings. Remind your daughter that conflict is an inevitable part of relationships.
  3. Encourage girls to own their success:Be on the lookout for opportunities to celebrate girls’ success and acknowledge their strength. Sandberg suggests to model owning your own accomplishments for the girls in your life. And say “thank you” when you receive a compliment instead of deflecting it.
  4. Inspire girls to go for it:Encourage girls to take healthy risks; explain to them how good it feels when you succeed and how much you learn when you don’t.
  5. Celebrate female leadership: Lead by example and talk openly about your own leadership journey; celebrate female leaders in your life and in the news. Importantly, make sure girls understand the benefits of being a leader, like having a voice and making things happen!

Friday 8 March is International Women’s Day. Kambala staff, students and parents celebrated the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women with a breakfast and presentation from special guest speaker, Gemma Sisia, an Australian humanitarian and role model for young women. Gemma started the School of St Jude in Tanzania in 2002, providing free, quality education to the poorest Tanzanian children in the country. Gemma’s actions and mission illustrate a vocation come to life with vivid passion and enthusiasm.

To learn more about how Kambala inspires learning and empowers young women of integrity, download our prospectus.

About the Head of Senior School
Katherine Mar is the Head of Senior School at Kambala, she is responsible to the Principal and oversees the wellbeing, attendance and academic care of all students from Year 7 to Year 12.