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Hidden World Of Girls: Share Your Stories

If you know where to look, there's a hidden world of girls — and the women they become. Their stories are everywhere, but they don't always get to tell them. There are stories of coming of age, rituals and rites of passage, secret identities — of women who crossed a line, blazed a trail or changed the tide.

NPR and The Kitchen Sisters are looking for stories from around the world — from the middle of the city to the middle of nowhere.

From The Middle Of Nowhere

Stories like that of Fadimata Walett Oumar, the leader of the five-person Tartit Women's Group in Mali, who lives the life of a nomad in the desert performing traditional music.

"Every time we move, we have to pack everything, put it on camels," she says. "Until a girl is 10 years old, they cut their hair. They stop cutting their hair when she is 10 so that when she becomes a woman around 12 she has already beautiful hair."

Oumar says her society has a different take on marriage than the committed-till-you-die scenario.

"Among the Tuaregs, if someone doesn't love you anymore, you have to leave him," she says. "They say that the more times you divorce, the more beautiful you are — and successful. The women throw a party when they divorce. The divorce party is a bigger party than the wedding."

Coming Of Age

All over the world, there are the rituals of coming of age — rituals that are endangered and changing.

Sophia Fish of New York City, 13, created a monthly ritual with a group of girlfriends. They sleep over at one of their homes, turn off the lights, light four candles and write their deepest secrets on sheets of paper and put them in a "ritual box," a jewelry box with sequins on top. There are five sheets for each girl.

"And we're not allowed to look at it for like years and years," Fish says. "We would stay up all night just to talk it out — any problems or issues we're having with our families, other people, each other. It was just to get — I don't know; this is going to sound cheesy — our emotions out."

Breaking New Ground

There are stories of women and the mysterious secret universe of their bodies. There are women with scientific secrets. There are stories about the women of conviction, women who lay it on the line and won't rest till there's justice. There are stories of the women who are leading the meetings and the girls who are breaking new ground: the famous, the infamous, the unknown and the unsung.

Tiina Urm, 26, was the communications manager for the Let's Do It campaign in Estonia. The campaign mapped on Google Earth the illegal garbage sites in Estonia.

"Fifty-thousand people volunteering, all the nation together, in one day cleaning all the country from the illegal garbage sites," Urm says. "A really crazy idea, but spread from friend to friend. There were kids, there were students, grandmothers, grandfathers. In Soviet time, when Estonia was occupied, people felt this is not their country — it's been taken away from them — so they leave their garbage, their waste behind. Although we regained independence, to really acknowledge that this is our land, we have to take care of it. Nobody else. We have to start to love this land again. Let's do something about it, you know. Let's do it today. I don't want to have to wait so long."

In the next year, NPR and the Kitchen Sisters will share these kinds of stories on-air and online about girls and women and their taboos, secrets and possibilities. We invite you to join us in this collaboration.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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