Every year, the international community comes together on October 11 to reflect on the rights of girls. This year, the theme for the day, a Skilled GirlForce, aims to increase awareness about working conditions and future work possibilities for girls around the world.

Typically, conversations on the International Day of the Girl center on the most negative aspects of girlhood, such as child marriage, female genital mutilation, forced labor and lack of access to education. Global Press Journal reporters in 10 countries asked girls to reflect on their own lives and on the challenges and opportunities that they face every day. Unlike the grim statistics that often monopolize the stories about their lives, these girls focused on the joys of being a girl, rather than the pains.

Krishna Shahi (pictured above), 12, told GPJ that she loves being a girl because she takes pride in playing the Newari baja, a traditional drum, during festivals. The strong, confident girl lamented only that her parents don’t let her go out alone. Other girls, ages four to 16, said their greatest joys were ribbons, dolls and family. Among the most negative aspects of life as a girl, they cited homework, chores and not enough ice cream.

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Manal Raisdeen, 11, Mannar, Sri Lanka

“I’m happy to be a girl because I like to bring happiness to Amma (Mother) and Appa (Father). I take joy in serving my parents. The difficulty in being a girl is that I can’t go anywhere I wish to alone. I can only go if Amma or Appa takes me.”

Photo by Vetrichelvi Chandrakala, GPJ Sri Lanka

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Valeria Contreras Izquierdo, 6, Mexico City, Mexico

“What I like most about being a girl in Mexico City is being pretty, not fighting with my brothers and cousins, and behaving well in school. The most difficult thing about being a girl here is obeying my parents. Sometimes my cousin treats me badly. He hits me, he hits his little brother, and I have to tell his mother that he shouldn’t go around hitting me, because I am a woman.”

Photo by Mar García, GPJ Mexico

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Sabrina Namata, 6, Kawempe, Uganda

“I like being a girl because I wear ribbons of different colors in my hair. Being a girl is hard, because I have to do my homework every day.”

Photo by Edna Namara, GPJ Uganda

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Bipina Paudel, 9, Kathmandu, Nepal

“I like being a girl because I can dance. I dance at home and in school. I like to dance to Nepali songs, and I like modern-style dancing. The hardest thing about being a girl is that, after marriage, we have to leave our family. I don’t want to leave my family – I want to stay with them.”

Photo by Shilu Manandhar, GPJ Nepal

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Andrea Salazar Ayala, 9, Mexico City, Mexico

“What I like most about being a girl in Mexico City is that there are many traditions and many parks. The most difficult thing about being a girl here is that people can rob us because we don’t know how to defend ourselves.”

Photo by Mar García, GPJ Mexico

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Sebathya Anansiya, 16, Mannar, Sri Lanka

“I’m happy to be a girl. There are three girls in my family, but Appa (father) loves me the most, because I’m the youngest girl. I am the one who gets the first share whenever Appa buys anything. Amma (mother) loves me a lot, too. She teaches me about different issues that happen in society. She advises me to conduct myself carefully when talking to boys, so they don’t take advantage of me. The difficulty of being a girl is that people misinterpret us – I don’t like that. The moment we talk to a guy, people perceive it wrong and talk about it with no hesitation. It’s hard to have guy friends, because people misinterpret even a friendly chat with a guy. All my friends are girls.”

Photo by Vetrichelvi Chandrakala, GPJ Sri Lanka

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Zurufathi Niyonkuru, 13, Nyundo, Rwanda

“I love being a girl from Nyundo because, at the end of primary school when national examination results are released, girls are sent to excellent schools where there are far fewer girls than boys. They send us there to increase the number of educated girls. Then, the best-performing girl is rewarded by the First Lady. The thing I hate most about being a girl is that I’m always told to do chores alone after school, when my brother is playing.”

Photo by Janviere Uwimana, GPJ Rwanda

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Tasleema Bano, 12, Srinagar, Indian-administered Kashmir

“I really like being a girl because most of my neighbors who have daughters study and are working. So, I really look up to them. The hardest thing about being a girl here is that you are always reminded that you can’t speak loudly because you are a girl.”

Photo by Aliya Bashir, GPJ Indian-administered Kashmir

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Yareni Carolina, 12, San Cristóbal de las Casas, Mexico

“What I like about being a girl is that I can dress however I want, and I really like wearing hats. The most difficult thing about being a girl in San Cristóbal de las Casas is when you like to wear a mix of boys’ clothes and girls’ clothes, or you like to dress differently, then people criticize you.”

Photo by Marissa Revilla, GPJ Mexico

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Sangita Rokaya, 10, Kathmandu, Nepal

“I like being a girl in Kathmandu because there are many beautiful places that I can visit. I can ride in a vehicle to go anywhere and get back to home after visiting any place in Kathmandu the same day. The hardest thing about being a girl here is that I cannot go anywhere without my parent accompanying me. Due to traffic, I cannot cross the road alone.”

Photo by Kalpana Khanal, GPJ Nepal

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Briana Douarin, 15, Mariani, Haiti

“I love being a girl from Mariani because almost everyone knows me, and people often talk about me. I feel important as a girl. The hardest about being a girl is that you can be a clever and capable girl and be better at some things than boys, but still have difficulty gaining acceptance from community members.”

Photo by Anne Myriam Bolivar, GPJ Haiti

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Shanita Namatovu, 9, Wakiso District, Uganda

“I like being a girl in my community because I’ve learned to do domestic work like washing and hanging clothes for myself and my younger siblings. The hardest thing about being a girl here is that sometimes I am burdened with more domestic work than my older brother.”

Photo by Nakisanze Segawa, GPJ Uganda

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Hira Pariyar, 9, Kathmandu, Nepal

“I like being a girl in Kathmandu because I can eat whatever I like. The hardest thing about being a girl here is the homework assigned by my teachers in school. I get fed up with all of the homework assigned by my teachers.”

Photo by Kalpana Khanal, GPJ Nepal

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Esnart Lukuka, 7, Lusaka, Zambia

“In anything that has to do with education, whether sponsorship or just books, girls are considered first. The hardest thing about being a girl is to be the one to do the house chores always.”

Photo by Prudence Phiri, GPJ Zambia

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Martina Roggero, 4, Buenos Aires, Argentina

“What I like the most about being a girl is jumping, running, bouncing, parading and taking photos. There’s nothing I don’t like.”

Photo by Lucila Pellettieri, GPJ Argentina

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Amandla Salmerón, 9, San Cristóbal de las Casas, Mexico

“I like being a girl because I can play, and my body is agile. The most difficult thing about being a girl is that I can’t eat a lot of ice cream or a lot of pizza, because my mom scolds me to nourish myself better. I think boys and girls have the same rights, but we are different.”

Photo by Marissa Revilla, GPJ Mexico

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Laxmi Rimal, 12, and Rasmila Rimal, 9, Kathmandu, Nepal

Laxmi: “I feel good because I was born as a girl. The hardest thing about being a girl is that you have to do household chores. I don’t like to do household chores. I want to study.”

Rasmila: “I like being a girl because I can sing. I sing at school functions. The hardest thing about being a girl is that I don’t want my mother working as a maid in other people’s homes.”

Photo by Shilu Manandhar, GPJ Nepal

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Sangarappilay Sailaya, 16, Mannar, Sri Lanka

“I’m happy to be a girl as Amma (mother) and Anna (older brother) work hard for my well-being and my education. The difficulty in being a girl is that they don’t allow us to go alone anywhere, thinking bad things might happen to us.”

Photo by Vetrichelvi Chandrakala, GPJ Sri Lanka

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Glendy Chopén, 12, Tablón, Guatemala

“I really like being a girl here because I like to play with my friends and study at school in order to accomplish my dreams and goals. For me, it’s really difficult when my friends call me names and when we have problems at home.”

Photo by Brenda Leticia Saloj Chiyal, GPJ Guatemala

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Sympathy Kirabo, 5, Namungoona, Uganda

“I like being a girl because my mother buys me brightly colored shoes. The hardest thing about being a girl is staying home with the maid.”

Photo by Edna Namara, GPJ Uganda

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Adifar Sadiq, 13, Srinagar, Indian-administered Kashmir

“I really like being a girl because I am able to study, and my parents have huge expectations from me. The hardest thing about being a girl here is that my parents always worry about my safety, and that makes me [a] little under-confident at times.”

Photo by Aliya Bashir, GPJ Indian-administered Kashmir

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Evelyn Ortega Díaz, 9, Mexico City, Mexico

“What I like most about being a girl in Mexico City is that I can do lots of activities like dance classes, martial arts, theater and crafts — there are lots of things I like. The most difficult thing about being a girl here is that I have to go to school, because it’s really hard.”

Photo by Mar García, GPJ Mexico

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Delfina Amestoy, 10, Buenos Aires, Argentina

“What I like most about being a girl is that you can hang out with other girls. The boys play other games, but I like girls’ games better and braiding hair. The most difficult thing is that sometimes, when we want to play soccer with the boys, they exclude us, and they don’t want us to play. They tell us that we can’t because we don’t know how to play, but it’s not true. There are times when we manage to get them to let us play.”

Photo by Lucila Pellettieri, GPJ Argentina

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Hassa Silge, 11, Mannar, Sri Lanka

“I’m happy to be a girl because I live in a way that pleases Amma (Mother) and Appa (Father). The hard part of being a girl is that I’m unable go anywhere that I wish because [my parents] fear that something could happen to me.”

Photo by Vetrichelvi Chandrakala, GPJ Sri Lanka

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Sarah Balikowa, 7, Wakiso District, Uganda

“I like being a girl in my community because I take care of my garden by watering it, especially in the dry season. The hardest thing about being a girl in my community is that my movement is restricted by my grandmother, so I spend most of my time alone.”

Photo by Nakisanze Segawa, GPJ Uganda

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Penildas Merinjanusha, 9, Cheddikulam,
Sri Lanka

“I like being a girl because I can dress colorfully and wear all kinds of jewelry. So I love to be a girl. The sad part of being a girl is that Amma (Mother) and Appa (Father) won’t allow me to go anywhere. If I were a boy, I can go everywhere. This makes me really sad.”

Photo by Thayalini Indrakularasa, GPJ Sri Lanka

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Andrea Namaganda, 5, Nansana, Uganda

“I really like being a girl in Uganda because my mummy likes girls. The hardest thing about being a girl is missing mummy and daddy when I go to nursery school.”

Photo by Edna Namara, GPJ Uganda

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Deeya Rajak, 12, Kathmandu, Nepal

“I like being a girl here because I can take taekwondo classes. I like this sport. When I win medals, my family and friends are happy. I don’t think there is anything hard about being a girl.”

Photo by Shilu Manandhar, GPJ Nepal

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Bethni Leja Liyanage, 12, Colombo, Sri Lanka

“It’s a pleasant experience to be a girl living in Colombo. This is a good place for a girl to have self-confidence and live a strong life. If you want to go walking, there are many places, and it’s also full of shops. For those who are doing jobs, Colombo is a place of many opportunities. So as a Colombo girl, I think Colombo is a place where a girl can live happily. However, the environment in Colombo is dirty, and I am very sad about that. There are piles of garbage everywhere. Once, a mountain of garbage fell and people died. The breeze in Colombo is now filled with dust – I find that very difficult, as well.”

Photo by Nirasha Piyawadani, GPJ Sri Lanka

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Hadley Ankunda, 6, Wakiso District, Uganda

“I like being a girl because I get to be the mother of my doll and make sure that she is clean. The hardest thing about being a girl in my community is that mother tells me to wash my clothes.”

Photo by Nakisanze Segawa, GPJ Uganda

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Kajanthan Ilakkiya, 11, Vengalacheddikulam, Sri Lanka

“I like being a girl in Vavuniya because I am happy to have paddy fields and ponds around. The difficulty in being a girl is that I like to go to all the places alone, but my family won’t allow me to go anywhere alone, which makes me really sad.”

Photo by Thayalini Indrakularasa, GPJ Sri Lanka

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Kiruthika Santhiyohu, 9, Mannar, Sri Lanka

“I’m happy to be a girl. I have two younger brothers at home, and I’m the only girl, so I’m happy. There is no difficulty being a girl.”

Photo by Vetrichelvi Chandrakala, GPJ Sri Lanka

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Najjuma Gertrude, 10, Wakiso District, Uganda

“I like being a girl because one day I will be a nurse. The hardest thing about being a girl is getting to school late because of housework sometimes.”

Photo by Patricia Lindrio, GPJ Uganda