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We asked 7 influential women to write a letter to their 12-year-old selves. Here's what they said.

Today, October 11, is International Day of the Girl.

Since 2012, International Day of the Girl has been an opportunity to celebrate the achievements and potential of girls, and reflect on the world we've created for the next generation of women.

This year, we asked 7 influential Australian women to write a letter to their 12-year-old selves.

WATCH: If all the girls in the world could read. Post continues below.


Video via Mamamia.

Within these letters, there were stories of belonging, grief, courage, gratitude, hope, and confidence. 

But most of all, there were stories of empowerment.

From Melissa Leong and Narelda Jacobs to Amanda Keller and Khadija Gbla, here's what they had to say:

Melissa Leong

MasterChef host, freelance food writer, and critic.

Melissa Leong. Image: Supplied. 

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Image: Channel 10. 

Dear 12-year-old Melissa,

I know you feel like you don’t really fit in anywhere and you don’t feel understood, but let me tell you now: this is the making of you. Your parents don’t quite understand your Australian-ness, and your friends don’t get your Chinese-ness, but that’s okay. Find strength in what makes you, you. Never let anyone make you feel embarrassed by your culture and where you came from. This is also an ancient and magical land you were born on, and your story is now bound with many.  

You don’t have to know who you want to be when you grow up, in fact, you don’t have to grow up at all, just grow open. We all evolve and are reborn many times in our lives, just take the lessons from each into the next, to find peace. 

Above all, listen to your gut. It will never steer you from the right people, or a good meal.

Amanda Keller

Television and radio presenter, comedian, and journalist.

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Amanda Keller. Image: Supplied. 

Image: Getty. 

Dear 12-year-old Amanda,

I’m writing this to you from your future kitchen... and guess what? You've learnt to cook. And you have a dog! Exciting! There's a husband and children too. The children came along when we (I, me, you?) were in our late 30s. I know you think that's ancient, but that’s something I want to tell you — don’t fear getting older. It's great. And don't worry that you don't 'shine' early. Don’t be intimidated by people who seem so confident, and know what they want, and where they are going. It’s okay to muddle through.

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As scary as it is, take every opportunity that comes your way. Don’t let fear, or lack of confidence stop you.

Now, I need to tell you to be kind to mum. You’ll miss her every day and when your own kids come along, you will understand that smothering love. 

And please take better care of treasures — letters from mum, birth certificates, Aunty Iris' candlesticks. You will be a collector of crap, but careless with the 'stuff' that matters. 

There will be stings and hurts (believe it or not you will NEVER get over not making that school netball team that time). But that's okay. These will serve to make you a better friend, parent, and broadcaster when you're a million years old like I am now. You're in for a great ride, so RELAX!

P.S. You will meet Barry Manilow! But you won’t marry him. Spoiler alert!

Narelda Jacobs

Television journalist.

Narelda Jacobs. Image: Supplied. 

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Image: Getty. 

Dear 12-year-old Narelda,

I'm writing to you from the year 2020. Sounds like a lifetime away and in many ways, it is! So much will happen between now and then that will see you evolve, but your kind heart will never change. In fact, your kindness is something to be proud of. Don’t fall into the trap of gossiping or thinking it’s cool to be mean. Always keep an open mind, even though it may go against everything you’ve been told to believe. Keep reading as much as you can to learn really clever words! Put those words into practice by talking and sharing your opinions because people want to hear them. Oh, and don’t worry too much about boys, that will work itself out in time.

Lots of love, 

Narelda xx

Jan Fran

Journalist and television presenter.

Jan Fran. Image: Supplied. 

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Image: Getty. 

Dear 12-year-old Jan,

I understand you’ve officially started high school. Congrats. This is going to be a weird but fun few years. A couple of quick pointers before I let you get back to trash-talking your new mate, Mary, at Year 7 camp.  

Some people don’t like you. They just don’t. They probably never will. I don’t really know why. It’s probably because you’re loud and obnoxious (that won’t change by the way). But you know what, it’s fine that some people don’t like you. In fact, it’s more than fine. 'Tis the way of the world. 

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Never, ever compromise who you are because you think it’ll make someone like you. Ever! Life becomes infinitely better when you accept the folks who don’t like you and embrace the ones who do. There are plenty of them out there. Trust me.  

Anyway, that’s the advice you’re about to hear in the mess hall in approximately seven minutes but Sister Mari is gonna put it a little more delicately. 

Oh yeah, and stop taping your boobs, mate. Seriously, no one cares. X

Tully Smyth

Podcast host and writer.

Tully Smyth and her mum Kay. Image: Supplied. 

Image: Instagram. 

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Dear 12-year-old Tully,

Hug your mum.

Hug your mum really, really tight and ask her about her life.

Write it down, record her.

Ask her about her childhood... about her parents.

Ask her about her adolescence... who was her first love? What was her favourite country to travel to?

Ask her about her hopes and dreams.

Ask her about how she knew dad was the one, ask how she felt on their wedding day.

Ask where she was when she found out she was pregnant with you, how did it make her feel?

Ask her a hundred and one questions and keep the answers safe because very soon... you won’t have the chance.

It’s going to be challenging. It’s going to be hard. But you are stronger than you realise and it’s all going to be okay in the end.

You are going to be a brilliant, empathetic, resilient young woman because of it and whilst it may not be how you imagined your life going, I promise you it will be fine.

You’ve got this. 

Khadija Gbla

Award-winning human rights activist, entrepreneur, and inspirational speaker.

Khadija Gbla. Image: Supplied. 

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Image: Instagram. 

Dear 12-year-old Khadija, my precious love, 

Where do I begin...

Right now, you feel stuck in the in-between.  

Your home is no longer safe, and the ugliness of war has forced your family in search of peace.  

To keep seeing life’s colours, you have suppressed a dark memory of abuse from someone you trusted.  

You are not to blame. It wasn’t your fault. You don’t know it yet, but eventually, you will turn that pain into power. 

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When Australia grants your family asylum, you learn quickly that while there is peace, your skin colour has determined that you are seen as inferior. 

And while you know you have valuable opinions that should be heard, instead, you are told to 'know your place.'

But, my young black queen, life will and does get better. 

You will find your voice to end the injustices you faced, and you will show young girls that they are not alone. 

You have remained a guiding light in my life, motivating me to fight and always speak up for those who don't have a voice.

I am proud of the woman I know you will grow into. 

Love, 

Khadija 

Turia Pitt

Bestselling author, athlete, and motivational speaker.

Turia Pitt. Image: Getty. 

Dear 12-year-old Turia,

Here’s a list of stuff I’d love to tell the obnoxious (at times) little Turia:

1. Mate, you don’t know everything. And the sooner you realise that, the sooner you start LISTENING to other people’s advice, the faster you’ll grow up.

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2. Get better with your money. You’ll have a crushing credit card debt by the time you’re 21 (I don’t think she would have listened to this, see #1).

3. Learn that relying on other people and asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness but instead is a sign of strength.

4. Drop the invincible, tough act. You’re not a robot. And as much as I know you hate these kinds of words, get in touch with your feelings.

5. Be more grateful. Practice gratitude more. Don’t take your body and your brain for granted – take notice of the incredible life you’re living and everything you can do.

6. Don’t get so caught up in overachieving and over-delivering. Don’t believe me? Remember your 17th birthday when all your friends came over for a surprise party but you ended the party early because you had to study? Enough said.

7. Try to relax a little, darling. Stop, enjoy life.

8. You’ll meet a man. Who will change your life and be your rock. But it won’t be the one you think.

9. There’s going to be a time in the future where you’ll need every ounce of your inner strength. Things are going to be very s**t for a few years. Worse than s**t. The s**ttest thing you could ever imagine. And it’s going to drag out and you’re going to wonder what you ever did to deserve it. But then, like all storms, it’ll pass. You’ll get better. You’ll heal ever so slowly. And even though we can’t change the past, we can change our future.

10. Listen to your Mum more. Even though she’s a crazy Tahitian woman, she does know what she’s on about (80 per cent of the time).

11. Those shorts you wear are a bit too short. Just saying...

Feature Image: Supplied.

Mamamia currently funds 100 girls in school, every single day. You can read more about our partnership here. You can also donate to Room to Read here, or find out more at  their website.

Turia Pitt's letter to her younger self originally appeared on her blog and has been republished here with full permission. 


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