Sam poses for a picture in front of a UNICEF banner.

Afia is a girl born on Friday, but it means much more than that.  

In the Ghanaian Akan culture, a child is named after the day they were born, and, in my case, I was a girl born on a Friday so at home I was called this alongside Samuela.  However, I also came to know the deeper significance behind this name.  

Growing up as a girl I remember my earliest memory of being empowered and finding my confidence, this was during my first speech to be a school councilor when I was 8 years old. Before this, I had never done anything of the sort, as I was the girl who’d often hesitate to put her hand up in class let alone deliver a speech in front of my peers. Moments leading up to the speech I recall my clammy hands, my racing heart, and my anxious thoughts, as I glanced at the eyes all fixed upon me. After the first few sentences, there was a weight lifted off me and a confidence I never knew I had begun to flourish. My words flowed effortlessly embedded with the occasional witty joke and persuading comments. I was given a place on the school council.  

Looking in retrospect, this memory, albeit unremarkable, was the first time I realised the power and value that my voice holds as a girl. As not only did I express my views, but by actualising article 13 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which refers to freedom of expression, I had an active role in making a significant influence within my school community. Little did I know that this instance was more than just a speech or an opportunity to come out of my comfort zone,  but rather, a staple in my activism journey. Years later, I’d be utilising that same voice to advocate to government ministers and influence national policy within my role at UNICEF United Kingdom’s Youth Advocate. Such experiences convinced me that every young girl deserves for her rights to be fulfilled and to be encouraged to be a trailblazer in her own right!  

On this International Day of the Girl, I want to celebrate the girl that is writing her first letter to her MP, the girl volunteering in her local community, the girl creating a grassroots movement, the girl performing on stage, the girl captaining her sports team. And all those girls across the globe challenging the status quo.  

It is vital that today is not seen as a one-off chance to celebrate girlhood, but rather a reminder of the values and rights that should be promoted and upheld daily so that girls no longer dream of change but are the change.  

Being fortunate enough to have my equal rights acknowledged as a girl brought to life the entire meaning behind my name, something I’d later come to discover. The meaning behind ‘Afia’ is a passionate, competent, and motivated girl, as well as a girl born on Friday. 

This is one example of why we should all strive for every girl to have their rights and voices uplifted.