Young Leaders Learn and Share at the Global Citizen Festival

Working as leaders and advocates in the areas of sexual & reproductive health and rights, HIV/AIDS, gender equality, and mental health, 20 different young leaders from 13 different countries convened in New York City last week as Johnson & Johnson’s 2016 Young Leaders. Most are involved in partnerships with Johnson & Johnson (J&J) and all are very influential grassroots leaders and advocates in their communities.

These leaders were brought to New York City to learn, share, interact with J&J leaders and participate in the Global Citizen Festival. As a major sponsor of the Global Citizen Festival and longtime partner for sustainable global health efforts, Johnson & Johnson holds the foundational belief that change happens one person at a time and the world moves forward one leader at a time.

“Everyone today is a person of power… and we must see a reflection of ourselves in every injustice that we see.”
– Yemurai Nyoni, Women Deliver

Top Left: On day one, Sarah of Over The Horizon Strategies, emphasized the power of your story. Giving some tips, she suggested that when telling the story of your work or your passion you need to balance of both facts and personal narrative. Telling your story forces a clarity of thinking, touches emotions, and opens up a door to begin a dialogue so be brave and share! If it feels hard to talk about yourself, Sarah suggests you talk about your work and free yourself from feeling that you are hitting people up or promoting yourself as a “do-gooder”; show that what you do is for everyone and everyone can get involved!

Bottom: Alicia Weigel and Trish Garrity of Fenton, helped lead training on social media use and discussed what it means to be Thought Leaders both on and offline. Social media is “not just a vanity tool,” but a place to share your views, shape change you want to see, and be a reliable source of information. They encouraged Young Leaders to follow the coffee shop rule: if you wouldn’t want someone over hearing you say it in a coffee shop, don’t say it online. Instead be selective, responsible, and curate your thoughts.

Above: J&J Young Leaders practiced sharing their story or “elevator pitch” with one another. Practicing your story with a friend helps to make it brief, clear, and precise.

In addition to training sessions, the Young Leaders joined corporate leaders at Johnson & Johnson’s headquarters in New Brunswick, New Jersey to share their stories and engage with J&J leaders about fulfilling the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. Leaders expressed commitments and shared the necessity of integrated development; we are affected by everything around us. Joy Marini of J&J describes it well when discussing integrated solutions needed for material & child health: “What good are safe birth efforts if we lack clean water to wash hands or don’t have electricity to power lights at delivery?”

Joy Marini and Michael Bzdak of a Johnson & Johnson panel listen to questions and comments from attendees.
Girls’ Globe founder, Julia Wiklander, engages the panel.


Deb Almond (Save The Children), a J&J Young Leader, shares her story. “You can’t just address access to healthcare, you also need to change gender norms and raise awareness,” she said while discussing women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Finally, the Young Leaders participated in the Global Citizen Festival, involving on evening event at NYU’s Skirball Theater and a day long music festival at Central Park. The Festival involved live music from artists such as Rihanna, Chris Martin, Kendrick Lamar, and Metallica and all attendees gained entrance by taking actions on issues such as gender equality, clean water, reducing inequalities, and environmental issues. To be with like minded individuals, hear from world leaders and their decisive actions, and listen to artists committed to the sustainable change made for an incredible experience!



Kendrick Lamar performs at the Global Citizen Festival, Central Park, NYC.



Girls’ Globe is sponsored by Johnson & Johnson to provide coverage during the Global Citizen Festival and to share the stories of the Young Leaders who are participating in the activities in New York. 

All photos by Sarah North/Girls’ Globe.


Girls’ Globe Bloggers at the Global Citizen Festival 2016

Girls’ Globe was present at the Global Citizen Festival, sponsored by Johnson & Johnson, to provide coverage of the festival and to share stories of the JNJ Young Leaders.

During the festival Girls’ Globe’s team of young women bloggers interviewed festival participants, talked with the Young Leaders and reported live from the heart of the action. But here’s the question: Can a festival really create sustainable change or make a difference? Here are some of our bloggers’ thoughts:

I think the most profound moments during the Global Citizens Festival were when I had moments to contemplate the sheer magnitude of the experience. The idea that more than 60,000 people were gathered from all over the world with varying socioeconomic and religious backgrounds to celebrate change in spite of the current geopolitical climate. Priyanka Chopra said it best, “The Global Citizen Festival is the only gathering that empowers people to make the change that they want to see.” I’ve always been taught to celebrate in the good times and in the bad; on September 24 the Global Citizens came together to make noise against a slew of social injustices. Although I loved being outside and hearing the phenomenal artist, I think my favorite moment was when HP as well as other tech companies announced the creation of Learning Studios in refugee camps in Lebanon and Jordan. I’m not sure how to put it into words, so I will just say YES!!!

– Wynter Oshiberu


It’s special to be involved in an event where artists and attendees alike are of one mind, seeking to better the world.

– Sarah North

The Global Citizen Festival was undoubtedly a festival with a difference. It raised awareness about issues affecting vulnerable populations across the world. We need to invest in education for girls, no girl below the age of 18 should be out of school for any reason. It is crucial that we jointly work towards building safer communities for women and girls.  The most powerful tool we have after our voices, is the power of technology and social media to improve lives and influence decision-makers to adopt more inclusive and progressive  policies and that will seek to protect the rights of women and girls.”

– Zanele Mabaso

At the Global Citizen Festival I was very inspired that they had a big focus on refugees and the crisis the world is standing in front of in light of war and injustice. What I was most inspired by was the fact that they brought people who had been in these horrible situations themselves. For example there was a girl who had swam as far as 3 kilometers while pushing a boat with people in it – just to help them survive. Now she lives in Germany and competed in this year’s Olympic Games as a swimmer. That inspires me and I am very thankful that Global Citizen is giving these people a chance to tell their story.

– Amanda Ring

The Global Citizen festival is very different from any other music festival, because the entire premise of the event is for people to take individual and collective action to solve some of the biggest and most pressing challenges of the world.


Through these actions and push from the festival and its thousands of participants and supporters, real commitments are made – for example, the Dutch government committed to spend $100 million per year for three years to improve access to water and sanitation, Canada committed C$20 million to UNICEF’s Education Cannot Wait Fund, Australia committed AU$10 million towards improving girls’ education in the Indo-Pacific Region and Microsoft made commitments towards providing various types of services to refugees, from psychosocial support to digital literacy and computer science.

These are only a handful of all the commitments and pledges that have been made in connection to this year’s Global Citizen festival – and it’s quite clear that this festival does, indeed, make a real difference and act as a catalyst for concrete action and change. It proves there is strength in social media and in collective action, and that we are strongest when we come together to demand accountability, demand commitment – and most importantly, demand action.

Girls’ Globe is sponsored by Johnson & Johnson to provide coverage during the Global Citizen Festival and to share the stories of the Young Leaders who are participating in the activities in New York. 

Photo Credit: Sarah North / Girls’ Globe

Global Citizen Festival 2014: The Finale to UNGA and the Road Ahead

At the end of the 69th session of the United National General Assembly (UNGA), one message rang clear: there is much more work to be done. Luckily, we are at a time of great momentum, where youth voices are speaking louder than ever, demanding their most basic human rights and a seat a the table to develop the post-2015 development agenda.

On Saturday, the third installment of the Global Citizen Festival was held on Central Park’s Great Lawn, attracting around 60,000 attendees. Created by the Global Poverty Project, the festival’s mission – to end global poverty by 2030 – is shared by attendees, as ticketholders must earn their spot through online activism such as sending tweets, signing petitions, or sending Facebook messages.

Find more Global Citizen Festival photos on our Flickr

This year delivered not only with big name performances – Jay Z, No Doubt, Carrie Underwood, the Roots, Fun., Tiesto – but with powerful speeches and political announcements from world dignitaries and President Barack Obama (pre-recorded). Celebrities like Hugh Jackman, Dianna Agron, and Zachary Quinto shared the stage with Queen Silvia of Sweden, Prime Minister Narenda Modi of India, Prime Minister Erna Solberg of Norway to speak of global poverty, and epidemics like Ebola, HIV, poor sanitation, and access to clean water.

In partnership with the World Bank, the festival has helped commit $2.9 billion to save 500,000 lives by 2015, part of the World Bank’s global pledge of $15 billion to improve sanitation and access to clean water. Leaders from Sweden, India, and Norway also added to the pledges throughout the evening.

The Global Citizen Festival capped a week where more than 140 world leader converged at the United Nations to discuss climate change, partnerships, the empowerment of women, and which targets will replace the Millennium Development Goals when they expire in 2015. And while it was certainly a celebration, it did not take more than a few moments in the audience to recognize that much more work lay ahead.

The crowd – majority young people – could be found sitting, texting, or talking when speakers were on stage, often only paying attention when musicians were performing. In fact, some speeches and announcements were barely audible as the audience turned their attention off stage. The words, “Ladies and gentlemen, President Barack Obama…” was greeted with boos and sighs when it was realized the President was not in attendance but rather giving a pre-recorded speech. Even celebrity and activist Olivia Wilde noted, “no one’s paying attention,” when trying to speak of the 22 million children who don’t have access to vaccinations.

Find more Global Citizen Festival photos on our Flickr

In order to be the generation the end global poverty, there is more work ahead. We must go beyond Facebook posts, re-tweets, and online pledges and commit to real activism. While visual petitions like the #ShowYourSelfie campaign have proven to be successful at raising awareness for world leaders that the needs and rights of young people must be a priority in the post-2015 agenda, we must engage youth even more to become active beyond their mobile phone or laptops. We must look to the powerful young leaders who are out there raising their voices with inspiring ideas to end poverty and ensure a brighter future for the next generation. Rather than be accused of “slacktivism”, young people must continue to stand up for what they deserve and want in their future. Theirs is the only voice that can inspire real change amongst policymakers and world leaders. As was a common saying at UNGA, “Nothing about us without us!”

Raise your voice for sustainable development with these resources: