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to celebrate International Day of the Girl Child, here’s guest poster Betsy Sheil’s piec

Hope and Passion: I Am Greta

By Betsy Sheil

For International Day of the Girl Child I will be watching I Am Greta (2020), the documentary that chronicles two years in the life of teenage Swedish climate activist, Greta Thunberg.

“I’m a nerd” Greta jokes with humbling confidence to French President Emmanuel Macron as he grills her on climate change. It’s not the first time someone has questioned her passion for and knowledge of the subject, nor will it likely be the last – because who is going to listen to a little girl? But instead of arguing with them and wasting her energy, Greta outsmarts those who doubt her.  

A year older than me, Greta has achieved more than many young people at 18, and her courage and determination has been for me, as well as for many others of my generation, an inspiration. This film wasn’t my first interaction with Greta – I once gleefully held a flag with her face on at a climate protest in Nottingham, my home town – and I am Greta only increased my love and admiration for her.

You see a shyer side of Greta in this intimate doc; throughout the film she questions why she’s even invited to such large events like the UN climate summit. I wonder whether this doubt sprouts from a feeling that as a young woman she is surprised to be listened to. Because while Greta certainly isn’t insignificant – her protests have contributed to a global phenomenon, where thousands of young people have begun to fight for governments and big businesses to take climate change more seriously – it is most definitely an anomaly for someone of her age and gender to be the face of such a global issue. 

The documentary shows the build-up to her infamous “How dare you?’ speech as Greta deals with growing success and the consequences of her unintentional fame. She jokes with her father that she can’t wait to go home on Monday so that no one knows who she is again, and at this point you realise that at the centre of this entire movement is a relatively shy teenager. Her infamous speech – which took place at the United Nations in September 2019 – resonated with me strongly at the time and has continued to do in the years since. As a young person I often feel cheated by those older than me – as a result of their actions the lives of my generation and those to come have unarguably been sacrificed at the hands of selfishness. It feels unfair that each day we are told of the catastrophic consequences in the near future if we don’t cut down our emissions yet we don’t see the biggest offenders doing anything to stop this process. For others, 2040 or even 2050 might seem far away – a distant time that we don’t need to worry about for now but for young people – we will only be in our 30s or 40s and to have our futures under threat  is anxiety-inducing. For me, Greta has been a beacon of hope and proves that there is still a passion to change this world, a passion which I think she has driven significantly. 

International Day of the Girl Child advocates for the empowerment of women and civil equity, and to see Greta, a girl whose work’s sole purpose is for a universal reward, be attacked and abused by the likes of Donald Trump, Piers Morgan, and other men she has angered, is infuriating. The doubt Greta feels about her invitation to summits, meetings and marches – despite her success – is a doubt which I think is instilled in a lot of women, the feeling of not being in the right place when actually you’re more than deserving to be in a position of power. From a young age, I feel like often I’ve had to work twice as hard to be heard or taken seriously within a conversation – there have been many times I’ve been dismissed as a woman because I’ve been told I’m not smart enough to “truly understand” the subject. I hope this feeling of doubt is something that will fade in the coming years because no girl – or any young person for that matter – deserves to feel that their voice is unheard. I admire Greta’s ability to vocalise herself, and it has helped me learn how to vocalise myself – she calls her Aspergers a ‘gift’ that allows her to see things from outside the box and that is something which I very much feel is a valuable perspective. Greta Thunberg is an inspiration and I’m glad to have her as a role model.

I Am Greta (2020)

The documentary follows Greta Thunberg, a teenage climate activist from Sweden, on her international crusade to get people to listen to scientists about the world’s environmental problems.

I Am Greta is also available to stream on BBC iPlayer. To see where else you can watch go to JustWatch

International Day Of The Girl Child

Dedicated to the growth of girls around the world. International Day Of The Girl Child 2021

Every daygirls are being taught lessons they never signed up for. We’re standing with girls as they take over the stereotypes that hold them back.

To learn more read United Nations


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