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Olympian Alex Morgan's message to girls: Confidence in face of challenges

June 17, 2013 -- Updated 1330 GMT (2130 HKT)
To be born a girl in Afghanistan is often to be ushered into a life of servitude, where girls have very little worth and very dim futures. Amina is forced to marry at 12, to bear a child though still a child herself -- while her own brother is given her dowry money to buy a used car. But Amina, whose name was changed and story portrayed by an actress out of concern for her safety, has had enough, and she is fighting back. <!-- -->
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</br>CNN Films' "Girl Rising" tells the stories of Amina and other girls from around the world and how the power of education can change the world. Learn more about the girls' inspiring stories.<!-- -->
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To be born a girl in Afghanistan is often to be ushered into a life of servitude, where girls have very little worth and very dim futures. Amina is forced to marry at 12, to bear a child though still a child herself -- while her own brother is given her dowry money to buy a used car. But Amina, whose name was changed and story portrayed by an actress out of concern for her safety, has had enough, and she is fighting back.

CNN Films' "Girl Rising" tells the stories of Amina and other girls from around the world and how the power of education can change the world. Learn more about the girls' inspiring stories.

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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Alex Morgan writes an open letter to girls of the world

Editor's note: Alex Morgan is an Olympic Gold medalist, starting forward for the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team and author of "The Kicks," a children's book series. American soccer player Alex Morgan is an Olympic Gold medalist and author of "The Kicks," a children's book series. This open letter to the girls of the world is part of the "Girl Rising" project. CNN Films' "Girl Rising" documents extraordinary girls and the power of education to change the world. Watch on CNN International.

(CNN) -- Dear Girls of the World,

I didn't start playing soccer imagining I would be scoring goals in the Olympics or representing my country at the World Cup. I started playing soccer, and sports in general, as a way to simply make friends. On the field, I was able to hang out with kids my age, kick the ball around and just have a good time.

Alex Morgan
Alex Morgan

What I didn't realize at the time was that soccer would do more for me than I could ever imagine. At a young age, soccer taught me about leadership and sportsmanship and what it means to be a good teammate. Most importantly, it taught me the power of confidence.

Confidence is not something that is always easy to find. Often, being the new girl on a team or being in a group breeds insecurities. I have joined countless teams where I was the new girl, and I was never immune to those feelings of self-doubt.

I have learned that by pushing aside those insecurities and rediscovering my inner confidence, I become a better teammate and person.

That's why I wrote the book series, "The Kicks," to show girls the importance of maintaining confidence when faced with new (and sometimes scary!) opportunities. While the book is aimed at middle schoolers, the lessons in it are ones that I think hold true across all ages.

CNN Films' "Girl Rising" documents extraordinary girls and the power of education to change the world. CNN Films' "Girl Rising" documents extraordinary girls and the power of education to change the world.
The benefits of girls' education
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What happens when you educate a girl? What happens when you educate a girl?
Girl Rising, coming June 16 at 9P ET

Joining the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team was intimidating to say the least. I joined a team with women who I had looked up to for years, and at just 20, how was I supposed to fit in with them? I was nervous and overwhelmed. But I knew that I was capable of competing with them so I pushed myself outside of my comfort zone in order to be the best player I could be. I now call these girls more than just my friends. They are my sisters, and together we support each other through thick and thin. I'm so grateful to have some amazing women around me to help me learn and grow.

Confidence has carried me on and off the pitch, through high school in California, college at UC Berkeley and now professionally for the U.S. Women's National Team and the Portland Thorns. I have had to adjust to new surroundings, meet new people and have been challenged by different situations. All of those experiences, while nerve-wracking at the time, have empowered me to grow stronger.

It's important that as women, we stand up for ourselves, stand up for our peers and show the power that confidence can have for women everywhere.

-- Alex Morgan

Read more open letters

Open letter from Christiane Amanpour: It's time to power the world

Open letter from Queen Rania of Jordan: More than tiaras and cupcakes

More: CNN's "Girl Rising"

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Get more information about CNN Films' "Girl Rising" as well as the latest news and global voices on the topic of girls education.
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