(Guest post from Girl Rising Ambassador Mary Grace Henry, a 16 year-old social entrepreneur. Her hair accessory business, Reverse The Course, gives 100% of its profits to fund girls' education throughout the world.) 

The second annual International Day of the Girl was a day filled with hope and progress. I had the honor of representing Girl Rising at “Erasing Barriers to Girls’ Education”, a Plan International/UNICEF forum. Entering the UNICEF House in NYC, I was struck by the buzz all around me: film crews setting up, people catching up, and professionals networking. I was also struck by just how purposeful everyone has become as they do this important work.

David Muir, ABC News anchor and correspondent, kicked off the program and engaged the audience. The day came full circle- beginning with David Muir and ending with ABC 20/20’s airing of Diane’s Sawyer’s interview with Malala. Nicholas Alipulia, Director of Programmes at UNICEF, spoke about progress and the continued commitment to transformative change. Vibeke Jensen, Director of Global Education First Initiative Secretariat, discussed international changes they are witnessing and Nigel Chapman, CEO of Plan International, moved the audience when he compared his daughters’ education with girls throughout the world. Each speaker spoke not just about educating girls but also about the quality of education. To me, it signified real progress.Then Freida Pinto, acclaimed actress and Global Ambassador for Plan International, expressed her passion and commitment to girls’ education. Growing up in Mumbai, she told us about her lovely house, supportive family and great education. Yet each day she was confronted with another reality as she saw dozens of children not in school, living on the streets, and begging for food scraps. Her mother encouraged her to use her voice to help these girls go to school. Tulsi Thappa, Global Youth Ambassador of Plan International’s “Because I am a Girl” campaign, left the final lasting impression with her inspiring story of life in Nepal and her desperate dream of education. Now working part- time while going to school, she has not only realized her dream but is using her voice to help others achieve theirs! After speaking, Tulsi asked everyone gathered to join her outside for the unveiling of the Erasing Barriers fresco.

(Plan International’s interactive “erasable” billboard)

There was a black and white fresco of young girls sewing. We were all given erasers and told to “erase the barriers to education”. When we leaned in to erase, the real fresco was revealed: girls sitting at desks, not at sewing machines; holding books, not fabric. It was a vision of girls who will pave a new future. We are all united by this mission. This is not a “girls’ issue”. This is a human rights issue that’s affecting the global community and changing the course of history. In order for there to be change, we need to stand together and raise our voices for the ones who cannot.

She’s certainly been a champion for change- For International Day of the Girl , Mary Grace, under the tutelage of her Broadcast Journalism teachers, Oanh-Nhi Nguyen and Caleb Foss, stood together with her classmates at the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Greenwich, Connecticut to produce these stimulating videos which they hope will give a voice to the voiceless: