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    Girl Up

December 29, 2012

How to Make the World a Better Place – Get Involved!

GirlUp logoAs we approach the New Year, it is important to think about how young people can become more involved as global citizens interested in global issues and their solutions. As a Teen Advisor for Girl Up, a United Nations Foundation campaign raising funds and awareness for UN programs that benefit girls, I have talked to countless teenagers about their role in making the world a better place for all. Many are unsure about where to begin or do not think that they can make a difference, but I believe that they simply do not understand how easy it can be. Here are four actions that anyone, but especially teenagers, can take to help create lasting change:

1.      Educate yourself. Read up on issues that you care about to be as knowledgeable as possible. Nicholas Kristof’s regular column in the New York Times is a good place to start for the latest information on international as well as domestic issues.  His book and documentary, Half the Sky, is a powerful way to learn about global issues affecting girls and women.
girl up stop child marriage logo2.      Advocate.  Make your voice heard! Meet with your elected officials to discuss pending legislation that matters to you, or send them an e-mail or letter. Don’t feel intimidated about meeting with your congressperson—they love to hear from their constituents, especially young people. The bill that I am passionate about is H.R. 6087 which lays out the U.S. plan for helping to end child marriage in foreign countries, and I plan to meet with my representative to discuss her support for it.
3.      Spread the word. Use social media to raise awareness about causes you care about. Tweets, Facebook status, and other posts have the potential to reach hundreds of people and take only seconds to write.
4.      Host an event. Don’t be intimidated—events don’t have to be elaborate or hard to plan. Ask a local restaurant to host a Charity Night where they give a certain percentage of one night’s profit to your organization. Alternatively, host a screening of a relevant documentary at your house or school and donate the admission fee.

The number of young people has never been higher, so we can be key allies in creating lasting peace in the world. Whether teenagers or young adults, I firmly believe that if we join together to make a difference in our own future, 2013 will be a watershed year for youth’s involvement in sustainable global peace.

October 9, 2012

First International Day of the Girl

Anyone can make a huge difference in the lives of girls around the world by celebrating the First Annual International Day of the Girl on Thursday, October 11, 2012.

international_day_of_the_girlThe United Nations officially recognized the International Day of the Girl 10 months ago, and since then organizations from around the world have planned events to celebrate. I serve as a Teen Advisor for one such organization, Girl Up, which is a United Nations Foundation campaign that raises funds and awareness for girls in developing countries. Girl Up hopes to mobilize its more than 250,000 constituents to raise awareness for the issues girls face worldwide and to fundraise for United Nations programs that benefit girls.

There are several easy things that you can do today to join the movement to support girls and women around the globe.

Spread the wordPost on Twitter, Facebook, or other social media about the International Day of the Girl. Be sure to post links to articles that talk about events happening to celebrate the day and share this video about the International Day of the Girl produced by 10×10, one of Girl Up’s partners.

Here are some sample social media posts to help you get started:

  • There are 600 million girls in developing countries – with our help, they can change the world. #dayofthegirl
  • Girls everywhere deserve the same opportunities that many of us enjoy in developed countries. Agree? Join the @Girlup movement here: girlup.org
  • We unite so girls can reach their full potential through education. Read about the challenges girls face and what we can do to help: http://www.ungei.org/

Donate. A small amount of money can change someone’s life forever. While solutions to global problems might seem incredibly expensive, a small amount of money can
change someone’s life forever. Consider donating to Girl Up or another worthy organization to help a girl reach her full potential.

 Lend your voice – Write, email, or call your Representative to voice your support for the International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act of 2012 (H.R. 6087). The bill is currently in committee, so it is really important that the legislators realize that preventing child marriage is a high priority to their constituents.

Let your elected representatives know that you care about legislation that impacts girls and women around the world.

girl-up-intl-day-of-the-girlWhile solving global problems might seem overwhelming, little actions can make a big difference! Social media gives all of us the chance to share our thoughts around the globe, and $5 donations and quick letters to your representatives are vitally important to the success of our campaign to improve the lives of girls and women around the world.

In order to truly make a lasting change, we can’t leave half of the population behind. Investing in girls and women is the key to making the world happier, healthier, and better for all.

 

February 7, 2012

Girl Up! – Closing the Gender Gap in Education

girls-in-schoolPicture this: your name is Fatuma, and you are a fourteen year old girl living in Todee, Liberia. Your brother is allowed to go to school and you aren’t, even though you desperately want to go to university and become a doctor. While American girls like me have the same dreams as Fatuma does, she simply does not have the resources to pursue her goals.

Even though Fatuma is a hypothetical example, her situation is very real.  In the world today there are four million fewer girls attending primary school than boys.1 Though the global community has made significant strides to eliminate the gender gap in education, much more progress is needed to achieve educational equality.

According to the World Bank, 35 million girls do not attend primary school.  Most of these girls live in developing countries.¹ Laws that discriminate against women and girls often play a role in the educational gender gap. In many developing countries, laws dictate that a larger portion of the family inheritance go to the male children, giving families like Fatuma’s a clear incentive to educate the boys rather than the girls.2

Additionally, Fatuma’s family is reluctant to spend money on her education, as they know that once she is married, she will live with her husband’s family. Any income that Fatuma’s education generates after her marriage will be enjoyed by her husband’s family.  Thus, Fatuma’s family believes that because their son-in-law’s family will receive the return on their investment in Fatuma’s education, her schooling is not worth the expense.

Girls Without Voices: Invest In Me

Even if Fatuma’s family was willing to send her to school, it could be so costly that they could not afford it. School fees can consume up to 30% of a family’s income and do not include costs for parent-teacher associations and teacher salary supplements. Fatuma’s family also must provide uniforms and transportation to and from school. Lastly, if Fatuma went to school, she would not have enough time to work to help support her family, denying her family a valuable source of income. In many areas, girls and women are expected to perform the majority of domestic tasks so if Fatuma went to school, there would be no one to help cook, clean, and take care of siblings.3

Girl Up logoFortunately for Fatuma and girls like her around the world, many wonderful organizations are striving to provide equal opportunities for education. I am a Teen Advisor for Girl Up, a United Nations Foundation campaign that supports UN programs that benefit girls in developing countries. With the support of Girl Up, girls receive school supplies or scholarships to decrease the economic burden on their families. They are given a second chance to go to school in cases where they were forced to drop out or never attended in the first place. Most importantly, they receive leadership training that teaches them to speak up for themselves and for all girls everywhere. Thanks to Girl Up, girls around the world are given the chance to achieve their dreams. Other organizations making a difference through emphasizing education for girls education include She’s the First, the Girl Effect, CARE, and SHARE.

With the help of these amazing organizations and campaigns, girls are able to not only help themselves, but also their families and communities. Educated girls and women typically make 10-25% more in wages, and they reinvest 90% of that money back into their families. Educated women generally get married later and have fewer children.4 These children will often be healthier and more educated themselves than children of uneducated mothers. By educating girls, we are not only able to solve today’s problems, but we are able to inspire the next generation of leaders who will solve the problems of tomorrow.

Resources

  1. Education – Girls’ Education.” The World Bank. The World Bank Group, 18 Aug. 2011. Web. 19 Nov. 2011.
  2. Roudi-Fahimi, Farzaneh, and Valentine Moghadam. “Empowering Women, Developing Society
  3. Society: Female Education in the Middle East and North Africa.” Population Reference Bureau. Population Reference Bureau, Nov. 2003. Web. 19 Nov. 2011.
  4. United States. Dept. of State. Educating Girls: What Works. IIP Digital. U.S. Dept. of State, 1 July 2011. Web. 19 Nov. 2011.
  5. Girleffect.org. The Girl Effect. the Girl Effect, n.d. Web. 16 Jan. 2012.