Vital Voices Highlights Program Fellows in Honor of International Day of the Girl

Vital Voices Global Partnership
3 min readOct 10, 2023
Image by Loralli Johnson at Vital Voices Global Partnership

The United Nations recognizes October 11th as the annual celebration of International Day of the Girl, highlighting the advocacy efforts used to protect the rights of girls and young women globally. This year’s theme is “Invest in Girls’ Rights: Our Leadership, Our Well-being”. This theme covers global problems of period poverty, education, gender-based violence, and other issues impacting the well-being of girls. Vital Voices Global Partnership spoke with young women in our network to bring awareness to and discuss the current mental health crisis affecting girls and young women.

Recent reports from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) shine a light on the mental health crisis girls and young women face around the globe. During 2021, there was a 22% increase in depression and suicide hospitalizations.

Researchers state various causes for this spike, such as social media intake, isolation from the COVID-19 pandemic, lack of support from family and community, or a combination of personal and social pressures intersecting to create an incubator for this current crisis. Each person has a unique situation, often with multiple factors contributing to struggles with mental health.

Vital Voices’ work with youth programming spans worldwide. We spoke with current participants within our youth programs to gain insight into what girls and young women need to combat mental health. Well-being includes physical health; speaking of the connection between mental and menstrual health, Mercedes Carrizo, a Voices that Inspire Fellow and Founder of Importa Hablar, notes, “The way women and girls experience their menstrual health can significantly influence their emotional well-being. Lack of adequate education and support around these issues can lead to problems with self-esteem, anxiety, and depression.”

Grassroots Voices program participant Aliyah Saleem, Founder of Health for Hope and Hygiene, tackles the issue directly by providing feminine hygiene products to girls in her community — “In a world where the basic hygiene necessities are often overlooked, Hope for Health & Hygiene stands as a beacon of empowerment. Through tireless efforts, we’re not only addressing physical needs, but also nurturing self-confidence and advocating for change. Together, we’re rewriting the narrative because every menstruator deserves access to these necessary resources.”

Harmony Hoogs, a Grassroots Voices program participant and Founder of Here N Queer, works with the LGBTQIA+ community to deal with mental health issues. She says, “Queer youth are disproportionately at-risk for mental health issues yet struggle to access psychological services and similar resources. With 45% of LGBTQ youth having considered suicide and yet 60% unable to secure support, Here N Queer aims to ease this issue by providing resources and spearheading change.”

The mental health crisis among teenage girls demands urgent attention. After speaking with the young women in our network, they recommend that community leaders, teachers, and parents prioritize girls and young women at the forefront of the decision-making structures that impact mental health. Girls can have difficulty convincing others that their feelings are real. Creating a support system that legitimizes and addresses these feelings makes all the difference.

Invest in mental health infrastructure, making counseling and therapy services readily available in schools and communities, ensuring confidentiality and inclusivity. Additionally, girls should have access to adults they are comfortable around. Creating a diverse network for girls allows them to be more open with people and receive the help they need.

Invest in Women. Improve the World.
At Vital Voices, we believe that when women are empowered, societies thrive. Our honoree programs have been at the forefront of driving change and igniting progress for women in the economic, political, and social sectors for more than a generation. Through these initiatives, we provide transformative opportunities, mentorship, and training to empower women leaders, enabling them to unleash their full potential and create lasting impact in their communities.

Your support is crucial to continuing to achieve our shared vision of a world where women’s voices are heard, valued, and empowered.

Please visit our secure online donation portal to make a contribution of any amount you are inspired to give today.

Written by Brynne Skalla, Bijan Moore, and Helen Padilla at Vital Voices



Vital Voices Global Partnership

Invest in Women. Improve the World. | Vital Voices invests in women leaders who are solving the world’s greatest challenges.