About two dozen girls marched to Schenectady City Hall late Friday afternoon in support of the International Day of the Girl.
The march, which included supporters from Girls Inc., local chapters of Working Group on Girls and the Girl Scouts, state legislators and members of the Schenectady County Human Rights Commission, walked from the corner of State and Clinton streets to Jay Street and then on to City Hall.
Along the way, the group of about 50 chanted and the girls waved signs proclaiming they were strong, smart and bold, the motto of Girls Inc. It was a vocal demonstration of the day’s purpose, which is to spread awareness of the challenges and inequities facing women all around the world.
International Day of the Girl was formed in 2011 with a resolution from the United Nations General Assembly and marches were held all over the country to promote the day.
Gathered in the rotunda of City Hall, state Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk, D-Duanesburg, said the girls were demonstrating great leadership skills by their efforts Friday. She encouraged them to continue to be leaders, suggesting they should aspire to political office.
“One of the things we have to help girls imagine is them being in leadership roles,” she said. “When I was your age, if someone said you’re going to be a senator one day … I would have said, ‘nah.’ ”
She invited all the girls to come visit her legislative office and to tour the state Capitol.
Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam, who organized the march with Girls Inc., echoed this offer.
Concerns of parents
Santabarbara, who brought his own daughter to the event, said he shared the same concerns other parents of girls have. He said they want their daughters to have the same opportunities when it comes to playing sports, excelling in school or advancing in adulthood.
“I thought it was important for [my daughter] to participate in an event like this,” he said.
One of the major obstacles facing young women is lowered expectations, but Schenectady County Human Rights Executive Director Angelica Morris said they can never give up. As a C student growing up, she said people doubted her and it was perseverance that allowed her to be successful in life.
Girls Inc. Executive Director Ashley Jeffrey said Friday’s efforts were spreading the seeds of change. She said talking about the inequality facing women will raise awareness about the fact that while strides have been made in the last two decades toward gender equality, there is still a long way to go.
“Next year when we do this march, we want to have hundreds of people going down Jay Street chanting with us,” she said.
Friday’s march also included support from students at Union College and the Sage Colleges and a proclamation read by Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy. Jeffrey added, “We are thrilled to see such support across the community.”
Girls Inc. serves girls ages 5 to 18 at its facilities in Schenectady and Albany.