Essays, Empowerment, and the International Day of the Girl

No matter the time or place, the middle school years can be a treacherous period for girls. Pettiness abounds, alliances change – all as our girls struggle to find their place, in school, in the world, and all as puberty’s flood of hormones washes in.

Middle school is no place for the weak.

Photo by Eric Nopanen on Unsplash


As a parent, it’s our task to strike the right balance between letting them find their own way and supporting them.

Instilling self-confidence is a harder task – particularly when you yourself are not oozing confidence. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m massively introverted and hate making waves, so speaking up for myself is difficult on a good day and overwhelming on others.

It’s not something I’ve grown out of, either. The fact is, when you write a book (or even an essay in a book), the work doesn’t end when you submit your final work to the publisher.  As I’m finding out, WRITING is only half the battle – you have to SELL your book, and that means putting yourself out there. It’s terrifying for someone like me, and even walking into the local library and talking to someone about carrying the book involved more than a few good minutes of positive self talk and profuse amounts of stammering and sweating.

I’ve passed on my anxiety gene to my sweet girl and I want her to be tougher than I was, because today’s world is just harder than it was when I was a tween. It just seems like kids – boys and girls – today have more pressure on them than ever before, and that was the impetus for the essay that I contributed to the anthology You Do You.

In my essay, I write:


“…no matter how confident a face a person puts on, no matter how outgoing they might be, kids can still be hurtful and cruel and words still sting. And here I was, tasked with teaching her how to stand up for herself and not be cowed by the words of others, when I had failed so badly myself.”


I want her to be strong and confident, kind and caring. I can teach her to be the latter, but the former? That’s where I struggle some days and worry that I’m not doing enough.

And make no mistake, my daughter is fortunate: she has a roof over her head, three healthy* meals a day (*degree of healthiness when you’re a picky eater is debatable), clothes on her back, access to medical care, a loving family who supports her, AND she is getting an excellent education.

Lacking any of the above makes the middle school years infinitely harder.

Hell, it means life is hard, period.

But poverty, violence and lack of opportunity disproportionately affect girls and women. And without an education, girls cannot achieve their full potential. I learned today through UNICEF that more than 130 million girls are out of school around the world today.

130 million girls. Take that number in for a minute.

In 2017, UNICEF launched the Girls Empowerment initiative to help girls boost their digital skills to organize, to be heard, to be the change. Girls are standing up and speaking out in the schools, in the streets and online, empowering themselves and engaging others.

I LOVE THIS.  Because this is what our anthology is all about – empowering our girls, teaching them to stand up, to speak for themselves.  We have been blessed to have access to education, and I have to think about all the world is missing out – innovators, the artists, the scientists, the mentors of tomorrow – because there are 130 million girls that aren’t getting the education they need to succeed.

Today is the International Day of the Girl. UNICEF supports the education and empowerment of girls around the world. With their help, and ours, any girl can be a supergirl.

If you click HERE you’ll be taken to the UNICEF website where you can make a donation that will help girls worldwide, and you can learn more about all the initiatives UNICEF has to help empower girls worldwide.

Photo by Animesh Basnet on Unsplash

And if you want to read our stories about being and raising strong women, about empowering ourselves, about when we stepped out of our comfort zone, about the things in our lives that made us stronger, about facing our fears – buy our book. There are some remarkable new young voices in this anthology, the sixth in Jen Mann’s I Just Want To Pee Alone series.


That anxious kiddo I talked?

She is just ONE of the authors in this anthology, and she shares her voice.


And what a confident voice it is.

Hmm. Maybe I’m doing something right, after all!


  1. Judi McCarrens says

    Your doing a great job Jenn. I would hate to be a parent or even more a young lady just starting out in the world today. Think the confidence gene came from me or that lack of it. Sorry!

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