Calne students help mark first Day of the Girl

This Is Wiltshire: St Mary's students join the celebrations at the London Eye St Mary's students join the celebrations at the London Eye

Calne schoolgirls joined stars of sport, art and entertainment on an all-female takeover of the EDF Energy London Eye to mark the first ever International Day of the Girl.

Led by Southbank Centre and global charity Plan UK, the speed-mentoring event also marked the launch of the WOW Girls festival.

Award-winning designers, artists, actors, film directors and athletes were among an array of women teamed up with 180 schoolgirls on the Eye – including a group from St Mary’s School in Calne.

T4 presenter Georgie O’Kell, fashion designer Katharine Hamnett and Team GB women’s boxer Natasha Jonas, were among the high-fliers who join pupils on Europe’s tallest Ferris wheel.

Other guests included TV presenter Fiona Phillips, Coronation Street actress Shobna Gulati, novelist Kathy Lette and comedian Josie Lawrence.

October 11 was adopted a global Day of the Girl by the UN following a Plan-backed campaign led by young activists from some of the world’s poorest communities.

The day celebrated the power and potential of girls – and highlighted that 75 million girls around the world are not in school.

The countdown to the day was marked with an illumination of the London Eye led by record breaking Paralympian Sarah Storey.

Following the success of Southbank Centre’s annual WOW – Women of the World festival, which promotes, recognises and celebrates women, WOW Girls: International Day of the Girl was a day-long event that brought together 180 girls from schools across London and beyond.

Girls and young women have featured strongly in WOW in every year and WOW Girls is the first girls-only WOW event giving hundreds of girls aged 11 to 18 a voice and providing an opportunity to celebrate the power and potential of girls.

The day kicked off with speed mentoring, then a programme of debates, talks, performances and workshops in Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall focused on the choices girls face in all areas of their lives, both in this country and abroad.

There was a series of sessions on education and careers, confidence and positive self-image, relationships, family and friends and empowerment to change the world for girls, with speakers from Malawi and live performances from some of the UK’s most exciting young female performers.

Jude Kelly, artistic director of Southbank Centre, said: “I am very pleased to be working with Plan UK on this important event to launch the first UN International Day of the Girl.

“I set up WOW – Women of the World festival in 2011 to celebrate women's achievements and to look for solutions to the many inequalities that women still face globally, and mentoring is a key part of that solution.”

Plan and Southbank Centre hope WOW Girls and the Day of the Girl will help draw attention to poverty and discrimination issues faced by millions of the world’s poorest young women.

Plan will highlight girls’ education and the role it plays in helping to reduce poverty in the world’s developing regions.

Speaking ahead of the event Marie Staunton, Plan’s UK chief executive, said: “We are privileged to be collaborating with Southbank Centre on this special event.

“WOW Girls presents an opportunity to celebrate young women’s accomplishments and highlight the unique challenges encountered by many.

“One in three girls around the world is denied an education by the daily realities of poverty, discrimination and violence.

“Every day, young girls are missing from school, forced into marriage and put to work against their will – not only is this unjust, it’s a huge waste of potential.”

October 11 saw the London Eye join other prominent landmarks, including New York’s Empire State Building, the Niagara Falls, Toronto’s CN Tower, and the Sony Centre in Berlin, in changing colour in support of Plan’s global efforts to mark the Day of the Girl.

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