The U.N. Foundation’s 2020 Girl Up Leadership Summit is filled with women known for their empowerment, inspiration and courage. The Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle as Keynote Speaker, special message from Former U.S. First Lady and Award-Winning Author, Michelle Obama joined by other special guests like Nadia Murad, 2018 Nobel Peace Laureate, UN Goodwill Ambassador, and Founder and President of Nadia’s Initiative, Sheryl Sandberg, COO Facebook and Founder of LeanIn.Org, Actress, Pryanka Chopra Jonas and Former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. The presence of these confident women have invigorated the main stage this year.
The United Nations started Girl Up in 2010, creating a global community in support of young girls around the world. The organization partners with leaders from every area of society to help girls tap into their personal power and learn to advance their skills, as well as, understand their rights. The program is an wonderful initiative impacting over 65,000 girls across 120 countries including all 50 US states. It is now a global movement motivating young girls to push for social change and gender equality.
Girl Up‘s yearly summit is in full swing. This year’s event is different, as the conference is being held virtually. Social distancing has not stopped the robust lineup scheduled online between July 13-15. AW had an opportunity to interview Rahkendra Ice, Communications & Digital Media Manager working with the United Nations Foundation to ask about the significance of this event for young girls and women everywhere.
What does “Girl Up” mean to you personally? How has the movement impacted your personal journey as a woman? It’s really powerful to see a community of young women that is serious and passionate about making a difference – that’s what Girl Up is. I don’t know that I had this kind of community when I was younger. As much as we’re “teaching” these young women, we’re learning from them, too. I’ve had the opportunity to meet a number of young Girl Up leaders who have written books, started nonprofits, organized protests, been part of history by being the first or the youngest, the list goes on. Unlike them, I spent a lot of my youth waiting to be an adult. I thought there’d be this magical moment when “adulthood” happens and my life would really begin. I thought by the time I “became a woman” I’d have it all figured out. The truth is, it’s all a journey. You’re always learning, always growing. There’s no magical point in womanhood where you’ve figured it all out. I’m inspired to see these young women getting such a head start.
Why do you believe it is important for women, as well as young girls, to attend the Girl Up Virtual Summit? How do you hope to inspire us to create the best self? Girl Up’s Leadership Summit is special this year because we have an opportunity to host it virtually and reach a broad range of people. We’re honored to have so many women and girls sharing their experiences and perspectives on such a wide platform. Sometimes, the world can feel so big – and when we hear of how women (no matter where they are in the world) overcame obstacles that feel familiar to us (wherever we are in the world). We are inspired, invigorated, reminded that we’re not alone. These stories are our strength. I especially love that each girl, each woman, brings something different to this global conversation – she may be outgoing and gregarious, soft-spoken or loud, assertive or more shy, and it makes her no less powerful just because she has a different presentation. Representation in that way makes all the difference. Leaders don’t look or act just one way. I hope that inspires everyone to be their best self and not copy someone else’s style.
How can women help promote your movement and agenda of gender equality and social change in our own lives? Someone once told me that “Big things are a consistency of small things,” so start small. Educate yourself. Support young women. Create opportunities. Share your stories. Do the introspective work, acknowledge the ways you may be getting in our own way… and stop.
Rakhendra’s powerful message is received with gratitude. She reminds us of the importance in living out our values (not just talk about them). The Girl Up initiative is of great significance, it seeks to provide proper tools to educate girls in preparation to lead. It unites women of all ages, backgrounds, and races for the purpose of making each other stronger. The ultimate goal is to strengthen our communities and build generations of future leaders that can do the unimaginable.
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