How Dakota Fanning Is Helping To Empower Girls

If you caught a glimpse of the New York skyline on Tuesday, you may have noticed something special: The Empire State Building glowed red for International Day of the Girl. "I think that they chose the color red, because red is a color that is bright and it makes people feel happy," 9-year-old Miracle told me at Tuesday morning's lighting ceremony. She's one of many kids sponsored through Save the Children — an international non-profit that believes every child deserves a future. While the color choice likely corresponded to the organization's logo, Miracle's explanation is even better. Joining Miracle and other children at Save the Children's Day of the Girl ceremony was actor Dakota Fanning. In her speech, Fanning highlighted why empowering girls matters and her words are worth repeating.

The I Am Sam star told the crowd,

"Around the world, girls face unique challenges. They are more likely to be out of school and face higher rates of discrimination. Every girl deserves to follow her dreams, no matter where she comes from or what her circumstances are."

That last part is especially important. No one should be left behind, just because of their gender. Not only does Fanning serve as a Save the Children ambassador, but she also sponsors a girl in Eastern Tennessee. According to the organization's website, "Sponsorship provides essential aid and education to improve the well-being of children." Save the Children pairs children in need with sponsors, who help fund their education, health care, and protection. But you don't have to be a celebrity to do your part — anyone can take action. She said,

"The first step in doing that is bringing attention to the barriers that girls face globally. The second step is empowering young girls to reach their full potential."

Emphasizing the importance of education, she added, "This is what I dream of for all girls and young women around the world, that they have the opportunity to learn and realize their dreams." As pointed out at the event, girls are twice as likely as boys to not be in school. They're also less likely to receive access to healthcare.

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For the ceremony, Fanning was joined by four girls, including Miracle. The other three — Colette, Antonella, and Kate — help sponsor girls through Save the Children, showing that you're never too young to make a difference. When I chatted with them atop the Empire State Building, they proved that they're wise beyond their years. Colette, 8, said, "It’s great to sponsor a child, because it gives them what they need to follow their dreams." Adding to that, Antonella, 7, said sponsoring girls can also help them "be healthy." Meanwhile, 10-year-old Kate noted that many girls "don’t get all the same opportunities that some girls do have, and it’s special to raise awareness for them." Echoing that idea, Miracle told me, "Save the Children makes little boys and little girls feel special in their own way."

Not only did I speak with some of the organization's youngest ambassadors, but Save the Children's President and CEO, Carolyn Miles shared similar sentiments:

"When I look around the world and look at kids who are missing out, there’s girls that are missing out, there’s refugee kids that are missing out, there’s kids that are growing up in incredibly difficult circumstances in war and conflict. So Save the Children’s mission is to try to get those kids to have basic health care, to get into school and stay in school, and to be protected from harm."
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The cause is close to Miles' heart, especially since she has a 15-year-old daughter herself. "For me as a mom, it really comes home when you have your own children and you think about all the opportunities they have. Many of the kids I meet around the world just don’t have those opportunities," she explained. That's why the group does everything it can to help kids reach their full potential.

As Fanning said, "Anyone can do their part to make a difference. Look at the impact these young girls are making," referencing the aforementioned foursome. And she's right — if kids as young as 7 years old are doing their part, there's no reason the rest of us can't. While the Empire State Building glowed red for one day, the cause is worth fighting for on the other 364 days, too.