We are thrilled to announce that the United Nations Foundation has selected GirlsUp as an official partner in its campaign dedicated to helping the world’s hardest-to-reach adolescent girls. Through this continuing partnership, GirlsUp Girls will have the opportunity to channel their strong hearts, strong minds and strong spirits into exciting global events aimed at empowering young girls around the world. We look forward to watching our GirlsUp Girls inspire girls everywhere!
GirlsUp Girls Recount Their Trip to San Francisco for the UN’s Unite for Girls Tour
Two members of GirlsUp’s Teen Advisory Board serve as Teen Advisors to the United Nations Foundation Campaign which is dedicated to helping the world’s hardest-to-reach adolescent girls. In November 2011, Annie and Jillian took an exciting journey to San Francisco to meet the other UN Teen Advisors from across the country. During this trip, they helped orchestrate the Unite for Girls Tour, an interactive event that highlighted challenges facing young girls in developing countries. We caught up with Annie and Jillian to talk with them about their roles as UN Teen Advisors and their experiences in California:
How were you chosen as a UN Teen Advisor?
Annie: “First, we had to go through two summer sessions with GirlsUp and serve on the Teen Advisory Board at GirlsUp. Out of that group, they had a blind essay contest. The writers of the two best essays got to apply to be on the UN’s Teen Board.”
Jillian: “The essay was about the most important thing you learned from GirlsUp. I wrote about being myself and not caring what other people thought of me.”
Annie: “Mine was about being comfortable in my own skin.”
Jillian: “The program is in its new stages, but it’s a program that could help us get more of a perspective internationally. We can help the program grow and meet girls from across the country as well. It is also a great feeling to give other girls an opportunity to have what we have, because not all girls are as fortunate as we are. Here in the United States, we have the ability to choose what job we want and when we want to get married. In developing countries, some girls are forced to get married when they are my age or forced to do what their parents do for work. It’s not fair that they do not have options or can’t strive for bigger goals.”
Annie: “It was so incredible to connect with a program as big as this which is connected to the UN. Giving to this program is like having a direct line to giving to girls in developing countries. Also, just learning about how they are deprived of basic needs like water, education and medical care is eye opening and makes you want to help them in any way possible.”
Before you went to San Francisco this fall, what were you most excited for?
Jillian: “We had been talking to the other teen advisors on the computer – through web chat – but it wasn’t the same. I was excited to get to know everyone and hear their goals and how they got involved in the program. I’ve never been to an event like that where I could play such a major role.”
Annie: “Meeting the other teen advisors was incredible and so was just being in San Francisco. It was great to meet all the people who run the program and talk to them; seeing how excited and passionate they are about helping girls around the world really got me pumped.”
What was it like to work with other Teen Advisors?
Annie: “They were all so passionate, so outspoken, so motivated and so ready to talk about the program as much as possible.”
Jillian: “There are about 15 advisors, and they are really accomplished. Some had already started their own nonprofits.”
Jillian: “One of the goals is to raise awareness and funds for girls in developing countries. They are trying to mobilize the potential of US girls and show them that their counterparts internationally are not all as fortunate as they are. The countries we focused on were Malawi, Ethiopia, Liberia and Guatemala.”
What was your role at the Unite for Girls Tour Event?
Jillian: “Everyone came in, got a passport and went to stations that represented the initiative’s four countries. The teen advisors each worked a station, but I was the runner.”
Annie: “Each kiosk represented a country, and it had an activity that pertained to that country. I was Guatemala. The girls read facts about Guatemala and wrote a letter to the girls there, which was delivered to them. Messages were like, ‘We all want to help, stay strong.’ Some girls even wrote in Spanish.”
Of the issues affecting girls that you learned about, what did you find most important or meaningful?
Annie: “For me, child marriage was one of the more attention grabbing of the initiatives. It is so eye opening to see how girls are forced into marriage by their parents before their lives are even started. They don’t have the chance to go to college or get a job.”
Jillian: “The lack of education they get because of violence or because they need to support their families by working. Here in the United States, people drop out of high school, but these girls would give anything to be in school. It’s just the opposite.”
What did you learn at the event that you hope to share with other GirlsUp Girls?
Annie: “How fortunate we are in the US after seeing these girls with no water or basic education, or scared of domestic violence. We can go to school and decide what we want to do with our lives. I want to help the girls who are less fortunate.”
Jillian: “I learned that pretty much anyone can make a difference. All you need to do is donate or spread the word. We can help girls in developing countries gain opportunity, gain independence and gain strength.”