Last Saturday, Girl Up, a campaign of the United Nation Foundation, hosted its first ever Leadership Summit for girls here in Washington, DC. Girl Up gives American girls ages 13 – 18 the opportunity to channel their energy and compassion to raise awareness and funds for programs of the United Nations that help some of the world’s hardest-to-reach adolescent girls.
The event included speeches from actress and philanthropist Monique Coleman, United Nations VP of Global Partnerships Elizabeth M. Gore, a panel discussion with Senior Advisor of the Millennium Challenge Corporation Cassandra Butts, and workshops on teen philanthropy, advocacy, and communications. A huge event highlight included a live video chat with nearly 20 girls at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls (OWLA) in South Africa. Girl Up Teen Advisors and OWLA students engaged in a captivating question and answer session, in hopes of learning more about each other’s lives.
“What do you dream of becoming in the near future?” asked a Girl Up Teen Advisor to the OWLA girls. A young woman enthusiastically answered that she wants to be a good leader that stands for the people and doesn’t make empty promises. She continued explaining that she eventually wants to become an economist because she feels that she can be a great leader and better her community in this position. The video chat ended with heart-warming goodbyes, rousing applause, and cheers from both groups.
Soon after the video chat, actress and philanthropist Monique Coleman shared an inspiring message of why she believes the work Girl Up is doing is so important to young women in the U.S. and aboard. She also provided a great list of leadership advice. She explained that to be a great leader, you have to become comfortable with being uncomfortable; the more uncomfortable you are, the more you learn. Find yourself in situations and places that make you sweat. Coleman is also the first ever UN Youth Champion and spent six months in 2011 traveling the world working with local governmental agencies and UN entities conducting a series of youth events. I asked her what issue she saw continually reappear amongst young girls regardless of race, geographical location, or socioeconomic class. Without hesitation, she answered, “Low self-esteem.” She said she has seen girl in dire situations accomplish amazing things because they had the confidence to do so and believes that we need to make better efforts to affirm young women in their self-esteem.
Please visit the Girl Up website to learn more about this amazing campaign. Encourage young women in your life to join the movement or “give a high five” and donate $5 to provide school supplies or health check-ups for a girl in a developing nation.