Today is the International Day of the Girl 2021. I see encouraging posts online like the one by UNWOMEN saying, “Girls can study and take on any career. Girls are smart and innovative. On #DayOfTheGirl let's speak up against systematic barriers & long-standing stereotypes that continue to keep girls from #STEM careers.“ STEM is an acronym that stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Yes, girls are smart, but many girls have to face multiple challenges even in today’s world that make it difficult for girls in many parts of the world to get the necessary education to reach their goals and fulfill their dreams.
We keep on saying, „Girls can do anything and be anything they want to be.“ There should be nothing that keeps them from achieving distinction. And yet, we still live in a world with a lot of disadvantages for girls that discourage them.
I am reading Fiona Hill’s book There is Nothing for You Here: Finding Opportunity in the Twenty-First Century. In her memoir, Fiona, who was born in 1965, describes what it was like for her to grow up in the North-East of England in the mining town of Bishop Auckland in the post-industrial decline. As coal mining and heavy industry closed down, the people in County Durham were left without jobs and prospects, often just surviving. Although both her parents worked, they were poor, and poverty influenced the possibilities of getting a good education as well. The English class society that automatically divides people into the working class, middle class or upper class still made it difficult for working-class people to make changes in their lives.
Fiona Hill’s book is particularly interesting reading for me because I lived in England in the middle of the last century and can identify with many of the things she writes about. My family never had to face the problems her family faced. I was able to go to Grammar School while she had to go to a Secondary Modern School. The type of school would set the stage for further possibilities of getting a high-class education, but Fiona Hill was fortunate in finding people who encouraged her and told her where she could apply for various grants. Even this information was not readily available in her community. Education was her route out of poverty and the door to opportunity. She writes, „Education was the key to changing my circumstances, but the kind, quality, and affordability of the education would be critical factors.“ 
The three questions that she was always asked were: „Where do you come from? What does your father do? What school do you go to?“ Fiona calls these harmless-sounding questions a socio-economic sorting that would put people in their places. Her father told her to get out – to go to London, or Europe, or America. „There’s nothing for you here, pet,“ he said.
Fiona Hill went on to St. Andrews University where she studied Russian and History. She then spent a year in Moscow and went on to Harvard where she earned a master's degree in Russian and Modern History in 1991, and a Ph.D. in History in 1998. She went on to work for the government under George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump, becoming Senior Director for Europe and Russia of the US National Security Council. What a career for a poor girl from County Durham! Overcoming the hurdles of poverty, class, dialect, and gender was made possible for her because she was determined to press on. She never thought she would land in the limelight at the first impeachment of Donald Trump as the top expert on Russia and Ukraine.
The career of Fiona Hill shows that nothing is impossible. Today there are still lots of girls in the world – even in prosperous countries - who are trapped in poverty and lack possibilities. Such “success stories“ usually combine the elements of hard work, determination, talent, education, and mentorship. Mentoring young girls and women is so important. I would like to challenge all to help girls find their way through the difficulties they face and direct them toward excellence.
Written by Hannele Ottschofski in her blog: https://womansoutlook.blogspot.com/2021/10/theres-nothing-for-you-here-today-is.html
 Fiona Hill, There Is Nothing for You Here: Finding Opportunity in the 21st Century, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.