We Want Commitment and Action: #ShowYourSelfie for Youth!

Matti Nouvalou from The Global Poverty Project introduces the #ShowYourSelfie for Youth campaign to Princess Madeleine and Queen Sylvia of Sweden.
Matti Nouvalou from The Global Poverty Project introduces the #ShowYourSelfie for Youth campaign to Princess Madeleine and Queen Sylvia of Sweden.

Today, a day before the Global Citizen Festival in Central Park, New York City, the Action Summit took place, giving global citizens the possibility to engage in conversations around some of the most important development priorities: sanitation, education, global health and women and girls.

I had the great opportunity to speak about why the rights of women and girls must be fulfilled in order to reach any other development goals and end extreme poverty.

For those of you who who may not know, I am pregnant. I was born in a country where there is access to good quality healthcare. Because of this fact, I have not had to worry about the baby growing inside of my belly or risk dying during childbirth. Yet during the past hour almost 35 women and girls have died due to complications during pregnancy and childbirth – that’s 300 000 a year! Did you know that the most common cause of death for teenage girls in the least developed countries is just that – complications during pregnancy and childbirth?

1 in 3 girls in low and middle income countries is married before her 18th birthday. Early, forced and child marriage is a human rights violation that leaves girls at greater risk of violence and poverty.

According to WHO, violence against women and girls is a public health problem of epidemic proportions, and it is estimated that 1 in 3 women will be subjected to gender-based violence and abuse during her lifetime.

We can not fully address any development priorities without ensuring that the rights of women and girls are fulfilled.

We can’t end poverty without ensuring that every girl that is born into this world is free – free to learn, free to play, free to decide over her own body and free to live her life to her full potential.

The Global Poverty Project and Global Citizen have sparked action to be taken to ensure girls and women stop being left behind. This is what Girls’ Globe is all about – we are raising the voices of young women and grassroots voices for global leaders to hear them.

As part of our campaigning for women and girls we are delighted to join Global Poverty Project and their recently launched global campaign with the United Nations Population Fund called #ShowYourSelfie.

We’re mobilizing people around the world to show their support for the rights of adolescents and youth to be central in the post-2015 development agenda.

What could be more important than empowering one quarter of the world’s population?

Adolescents and youth are 1.8 billion strong. There are more young people in the world today than ever before. They are a powerful force, individually and collectively. They are world leaders today and are building the foundation for the world’s future.

Millions of young people do not have access to basic needs and rights. Needs such as education, health services, access to contraception, comprehensive sexuality education, fair wages and protection from violence.

As global leaders set the new Sustainable Development Goals during the coming year, young people MUST be at the table, their voices need to be heard.

So join us in this call to action! #ShowYourSelfie for youth, and raise your voice to ensure that women and girls are included in all aspects of the post-2015 development agenda.

The time really is now. We want strong commitments and we want action.

#ShowYourSelfie: Educate Girls

In less than nine months, I will be graduating from high school. And in less than a year, I will be starting college. For the past 12 years, I have been blessed with an education that has empowered me to challenge the status quo. Guided by a love of learning and a supportive school system, I have been emboldened with the faith that I can leverage the knowledge I’ve acquired – whether within or beyond the classroom – to make a tangible difference in the world.

However, unlike me, adolescent girls across the world face persistent barriers to the education that they are entitled to – the 2013 documentary Girl Rising posits that as many as 66 million girls are out of school globally. The lamentable, inescapable truth is that when a girl is shut out of educational institutions, she inevitably faces the brunt of abuse, early marriage, maternal mortality, poverty, and financial dependence.

But we can change this reality for the 66 million girls worldwide.

I believe that girls’ education is one of the most powerful investments anyone can make. When a girl completes her secondary education, she receives an 18% increase in future wages. When a mother has an extra year of schooling, the risks of her children having infant mortality is reduced by 5% to 10%. Furthermore, girls’ education is crucial to a decline in fertility rates, as girls will have knowledge about family planning and contraceptives. Educated girls are less susceptible to gender-based violence and forced prostitution than their uneducated counterparts, attesting to the potent truth that girls’ education is a critical steppingstone to individual empowerment.

And these intrinsic links exist because when girls are educated, they are able to challenge accepted axioms and traditions, wholly ready to make blows against injustices in their societies. Formative experiences within the context of a classroom will influence a girl’s career path, giving her the training and intellectual inspiration needed to pursue her passions. An educated girl will become financially self-sufficient; the perpetual cycles of poverty in her family will be shattered because she is likely to invest in her children’s education as well.

The more I learn about girls’ education, the more my passion for this cause grows. Thus I strive, in every initiative I lead, to expedite access to girls’ education in developing communities. In my sophomore year of high school, I co-founded the Hong Kong chapter of Givology, a nonprofit with the philosophy of universalizing quality education through a crowdfunding business model, because I wanted to support grassroots organizations that were working to improve girls’ access to education. Our chapter spent the 2013-2014 year financing educational projects for Starfish, a nonprofit that empowers girls in Guatemala through education and mentorship. Through a trailblazing educational curriculum, Starfish has fostered a paradigm shift and helped 500 girls surmount the obstacles that have hampered their ancestors.

When talking to Starfish representatives, I am continually amazed by the stories I hear about girls who are empowered to empower others, changing the fabric of their society as they do so. Through small-scale film screenings, book discussions, silent auctions, and spare change drives, our chapter was able to raise $1200 for Starfish’s family violence intervention training, vocal empowerment, and career development programs! I am so thankful that I’ve had the opportunity to support such meaningful and relevant initiatives with the Hong Kong Chapter of Givology, and be part of the change for adolescent girls.

This academic year, Givology’s Hong Kong chapter is partnering with Emerge Global, a nonprofit that enables girls in Sri Lanka who have survived sexual abuse to become jewelry designers. We are currently raising funds for business acumen and math programs so that Emerge‘s girls can launch enterprises, initiate community projects, secure a steady income stream, and finance necessities like future education, childcare, and medical support. What I love most about Emerge Global is its ethos of channeling adversity into action – by removing stigmas attached to sexual violence and making crucial investments in education, Emerge fortifies girls with the financial, social, and personal capital needed to change their communities and world.

My wish for the Post-2015 development agenda is that the global action campaign for girls’ education will continue to expand. The first step is to show world leaders and decision-makers that girls must realize their fundamental rights to education and not be denied education because of their gender. Through the #ShowYourSelfie Campaign for Youth, I declare that we must work relentlessly to expedite access to girls’ education. Let’s continue to collaborate in the fight to give adolescent girls in the developing world the education they rightfully deserve.

Breaking the cycle to end gender-based violence

I am one of the lucky ones.

Every morning, I wake up excited to attend another day of school. At school, I have an opportunity to learn new things, enjoy my lessons and participate in new activities. We have all heard the phrase, “If you educate a girl, you educate a nation.” Globally, it is estimated that 66 million girls will not have access to an education. Unlike many girls, I have the ability to access my right to education, choose who I marry and will have as many children as I desire.

I am one of the lucky ones.

Before I was born, my grandmother took a stand for me and future generations. She rejected the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and refused to let her daughter, my mother, go through the practice. FGM is the deliberate mutilation of the genitalia of women and girls for non-medical reasons. This practice has life-long physical, emotional and psychological effects on women and girls. FGM was practiced in my family for generations. When my grandmother was strong enough to say ‘no’ it stopped. Globally, 140 million women and girls who are subjected to this practice are not as fortunate. Women like Leyla Hussein and Nimko Ali have been fighting to end FGM in the United Kingdom and empower young women and girls to say ‘no’ to FGM. We need more global leaders, individuals, organizations, communities and governments to say ‘no’ alongside of them.

Some additional facts:

  • One in ten girls (under 20) has experienced some type of forced sexual abuse or assault
  • Every ten seconds, one girl will be subject to female genital mutilation.
  • Every two seconds, one girl will be forced into marriage.
  • Every second, women and girls are being abused, beaten, raped and groped.

The violence must stop.

As activists, leaders, governments and organizations we can not only talk about the statistics. We must take action for women and girls whose rights are violated. Systems of patriarchy and misogyny must not be allowed to continue. It is not acceptable for some men to act as if it is their right to beat their wives, rape their sisters and force their daughters into marriage.

I want to see real change.

Over the next 18 months, global leaders will draft a development framework for the next fifteen years. In the post-2015 agenda, I want leaders to focus on breaking the cycle of gender-based violence. In order to accomplish this, we must educate girls, empower young women to know their rights and give every girl a chance to raise her voice.

I am one of 3.5 billion women and girls in the world.

Our voices matter.

Cover Photo Credit: DFID, UK, Flickr Creative Commons

Join the Conversation

#ShowYourSelfie – Now is the time for young people to have their say! What do you think is a priority for the Post-2015 Agenda? Share your views and publish a selfie to join this global visual petition run by The Global Poverty Project and UNFPA. showyourselfie.org

September 21st-26th Girls’ Globe will be in New York for the 2014 UN General Assembly. We are partnering with FHI360, Johnson & Johnson, and Women Deliver in support of Every Woman Every Child to amplify the global conversation on the Millennium Development Goals and the post-2015 agenda. Follow #MDG456Live, raise your voice and join the conversation to advance women’s and children’s health. Sign up for the Daily Delivery to receive live crowd-sourced coverage of these issues directly to your inbox.

Maternal Health: More Than Just Survival!

Around the world, women and girls of reproductive age get pregnant – either by choice, through thoughtful planning, after years of longing or under less joyful circumstances. The news of expecting a baby, another family member, may come as a silent intuition or a shock combined with morning sickness, and every woman’s experience is unique.

Yet, mothers-to-be around the world face a wide variety of challenges. For women in least developed areas and in conflict or emergencies, becoming pregnant may pose a risk to one’s life. In developing countries the most common cause of death for adolescent girls is complications related to pregnancy or delivery.

Worldwide, there are women who do not want to get pregnant, but are unable to access (or afford) contraception or family planning services. Imagine walking to the pharmacy to pick up your choice of contraception, just to be informed that there is a stock-out, and they just don’t know when your desired method will be available again. 

In some areas of the world women struggle with finding appropriate, respectful and woman-centered care, like an educated midwife who can see to the woman’s needs throughout pregnancy and beyond. Did you know that 350,000 midwives are needed to ensure universal coverage of maternity care? 

For others, the worry of not being able to afford pre-natal care and maternal health services is a harsh reality – both in the United States and in least developed nations. Many women struggle with the puzzle of financial constraint, due to health systems that aren’t centered around women’s right to maternal health care, and legal systems that don’t ensure women’s ability to retain employment and become a mother. 

For me, that morning when I saw a positive sign on the pregnancy test, I was filled with excitement, expectations and a sense of craziness. Although my husband and I had been talking about having a baby for a while, we knew that this news was going to change our lives. The thought of survival never crossed my mind. Neither did I have to worry about affording care or being able to access a midwife, and I knew that this privilege was due to where I lived.

Women’s choices must be at the center.

As we accelerate action for and investments in maternal health, we must remember that women and their choices have to be at the center of those investments. Not only should we address the needs of women, but we must be sure to listen to their desires and choices and ensure that women have access to and can afford information, family planning services, health care and midwives to be able to make informed decisions about their lives.

There are less than 500 days until the Millennium Development Goals are due – and there is still much action to be taken for expecting mothers around the world. As global leaders negotiate the new Sustainable Development Goals for the Post-2015 Agenda, it is my hope that they do so with a gender lens. Listening to women’s choices is essential – because we are not one homogenous group with only survival on our minds. We all have different needs and desires of how we want to live our lives. 

Global leaders and policy-makers, it is time for you to listen!

“I hope that global leaders listen to women’s choices when investing in maternal health!” – Julia Wiklander

Join the conversation

There are several ways for you to join the conversation, highlight what you think is important for women’s health and well-being, and hold leaders accountable.

#Commit2Deliver – What commitments have been made for women’s and children’s health? What action do you want to see for women and children? Tweet and Instagram using #Commit2Deliver and check out commitments on Every Woman Every Child.

#ShowYourSelfie – Now is the time for young people to have their say! What do you think is a priority for the Post-2015 Agenda? Share your views and publish a selfie to join this global visual petition run by The Global Poverty Project and UNFPA. showyourselfie.org

September 21st-26th Girls’ Globe will be in New York for the 2014 UN General Assembly. We are partnering with FHI360Johnson & Johnson, and Women Deliver in support of Every Woman Every Child to amplify the global conversation on the Millennium Development Goals and the post-2015 agenda. Follow #MDG456Live, raise your voice and join the conversation to advance women’s and children’s health. Sign up for the Daily Delivery to receive live crowd-sourced coverage of these issues directly to your inbox.

#ShowYourSelfie: Girls Should Be Free From Violence

Several weeks ago I received the joyous news that a new baby girl will join my sister’s family this Spring. When my six-year-old niece was born I had the privilege of helping my sister through labor and experienced the miracle of birth. Watching new life come into the world is one of the most amazing experiences. I am overjoyed with the news of another niece on the way and will have the same incredible opportunity.

Callie and Tia
With my niece right after her birth

As I think about my beautiful niece, my nephew and the impending arrival of another sweet girl I think of all of the possibilities ahead of them. Sports activities, extra-curricular classes, school dances, college, job opportunities and having a family are life events they will experience. My niece, a very bright and outspoken six-year-old loves to read, play soccer and knows she can talk to her parents about anything.

One of the greatest things about being an aunt is the opportunity to experience and talk with them about the exciting moments in their lives. As my two nieces grow up together, the reality is they will be free to complete their education, go to college and choose if and when to get married and have children. Recently, my niece asked me, “Tia, when do you think I will get married and have children?” My response was simple:

You can choose.

As I think about their lives, I can not help but think of the reality facing most adolescent girls around the world. Instead of finishing their education, one in three girls in low to middle income countries will be married before they turn eighteen years old. Many of these girls are not much older than my niece when they are given away as child brides. Sixteen million adolescent girls give birth every year, many of them and their babies will not survive. Girls face threats of sexual assault daily, while walking to and from school, on public transportation, or while going to the bathroom. Every day, girls as young as five are forced to undergo a practice called Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). FGM, the partial or total removal of a young girl’s genitals for non-medical reasons, harms her body and leaves lasting physical and emotional effects. Choice is simply not an option.

Girls are the future.

Like my nieces, girls around the world hold amazing potential. I have had the privilege to meet so many of them. They are organizational leaders, teachers, doctors, entrepreneurs, leaders, activists and decision-makers. We must protect them. Over the next 18 months, global leaders are creating a development agenda for the next fifteen years. Adolescent girls need to be at the heart of this agenda. In the post-2015 agenda, we must strengthen policies and systems that provide protection for adolescent girls from violence and harmful practices. As I wrote in a recent Huffington Post article, girls’ voices are valuable and need to be heard. I want to see their potential realized and strengthened.

As the post-2015 framework develops, #ShowYourSelfie is a visual petition and a powerful way to empower young people to be seen and heard by global leaders. Through this campaign, as a young person, I declare that all girls should be able to live free from violence. Let’s continue to work together and fight for their rights in the post-2015 agenda.

Want to take action?

Participate in the #ShowYourSelfie campaign and be the change for girls!

September 21st-26th Girls’ Globe will be in New York for the 2014 UN General Assembly. We are partnering with Johnson & Johnson, FHI360 and Women Deliver in support of the UN Foundation’s Every Woman Every Child to amplify the global conversation on the Millennium Development Goals and the post-2015 agenda. Follow #MDG456Live, raise your voice and join the conversation to advance women and children’s health. Sign up for the Daily Delivery and to read engaging blog posts, watch interviews and more.