There are more than 1.2 billion adolescents aged 10-19 in the world today, making up the largest youth generation in history. This weekend I got to spend time with 16 of them.
Girl Up is a "for girls, by girls" campaign that mobilizes the energy and compassion of youth in the United States to help raise funds and awareness for United Nations programs that provide girls in developing countries the chance to go to school, see a doctor, stay safe from violence and more.
Since our founding, we have galvanized more than 305,000 supporters. Foremost among them are our Teen Advisors, a group of 16 young women who are selected on an annual basis from across the country to serve for an academic year as advisors to the campaign.
Over the weekend, the Teen Advisors convened in Los Angeles for their biannual meeting. Some of the Teen Advisors I got to spend time with this weekend included:
- Munira Khalif: a 16-year-old sophomore at Mounds Park Academy in St. Paul, Minnesota. This year she launched her own campaign, Lighting the Way, which helps East African girls in her community by providing school supplies and mentoring opportunities.
- Archana Somasegar: a 16-year-old junior at Lakeside High School in Seattle, Washington. Archana raised more than $24,000 to build a sewing studio and a nursery for an orphanage in India.
- Emily Harwell: a 17-year-old junior at Berkeley Preparatory School in Tampa, Florida. Emily is one of the co-chairs of this year’s Teen Advisor class, having served as a Teen Advisor in 2011-12. She is also the production editor of her school's newspaper and was a 2012-13 AnnPower/Vital Voices Fellow.
They represent just a few of the members of our advisory board, and every girl on it has amazing accomplishments to celebrate. These girls, and all of Girl Up’s supporters, care about issues on a global scale. They are motivated to raise awareness and take action on behalf of girls around the world – girls who they may never meet.
Take Nejat, a 14-year-old girl in Ethiopia who is now on her way to achieving her dreams. Because of her physical disabilities, Nejat, the child of blind parents who survive by begging, was vulnerable to abuse. By joining Biruh Tesfa, a program Girl Up has supported, Nejat was able to enter a mentorship program, receive a wheelchair, and attend physical therapy. Entering the Biruh Tesfa program changed Nejat’s life.
Beyond teenage girls, people of all ages across the United States are joining this growing movement and taking action to advance the rights of girls around the world. Hundreds of thousands of people every day are taking part in virtual conversations and donating their time and resources. Together they are creating a truly global community that advocates for girls everywhere.
One way to take part is to learn about issues affecting adolescent girls through Catapult, a new crowdfunding site that helps fund projects that improve the lives of women and girls. One of Girl Up’s Catapult projects provides scholarships for girls in Ethiopia, like Nejat, so that they can go to school. You can join Melinda Gates and Beyonce by supporting this project, and if you choose to donate today, your contribution will go twice as far because the funds are being matched by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Whether you’re a woman or a man, a teen or a grandfather, you can do something to improve the lives of girls around the world.
Be a part of this growing global movement. Because while we are strong, together we are stronger.