UN New York: A World Organization for Girls

“Girls Speak Out” event at UN HQ in New York on October 11, 2018

“Girls Speak Out” event at UN HQ in New York on October 11, 2018

By Jeanne Carroll

The Working Group On Girls (WGG), an NGO committee connected to UN Women, helps elevate the voices and needs of girls globally through education and visibility on the local, national and international stage by allowing girls to advocate on their own behalf.

October 2018 saw a major effort by WGG marking the 7th anniversary of the International Day of the Girl with 11 days of action from October 1st leading to a celebration at the UN in New York City on October 11. The event, “Girls Speak Out”, filled the ECOSOC Chamber with girls from all over the world, where they took their position on the main dais of the Chamber.

Each girl, using only her first name, spoke about unique dilemmas confronting them and how they personally worked toward a solution. Selena, from the state of Georgia, addressed the need for middle school girls to feel confident in pursuing interest in STEM education by developing the “Girls First Junior Program”. Selena said, “Don’t try to be perfect, be brave enough to fail.”

Shreeasi Ja worked with UNICEF, helping girls transition from the educational environment to work. She created support where girls feel confident to use their skills, emphasizing that the ideal world is where every person is included.

Nathalia, an urban girl from New York City, spoke on her passion for removing the stigma and shame of mental illness through support and education. She emphasized that while over 500 million girls are living with mental illness, only 2% of national budgets are allocated to serve them. Trinity also spoke on mental health and pleads with girls in her “Note to Self” workshops to use art as a method of coping with depression. She boldly proclaimed, “I am somebody, NOT some body” and encouraged those present to “value our sacred sisterhood and own your own truth.”

14-year-old Shreeya traveled from a remote village in rural Nepal. At the age of 11, she saw her friend married to a much older man for her dowry and shared how many young girls face the same fate, only to be tossed aside, maimed or killed once the dowry is paid in full. With the support of her parents, Shreeya began educating parents and girls with her program “Give education to the girls, not a dowry,” which convinced many parents to send their girls to school.

These are just a few of the girls and their stories that kept the audience spellbound for three hours in the halls of the UN. Other topics addressed were: climate change; human trafficking; natural disasters; poverty; and lack of supplies for menstruation. In closing, a girl from Cameroon, Blessing, said, “Girls have it so hard because the world is scared of them. We are all humans and love will set us free.”

WGG was established in support of girls worldwide in conjunction with efforts being made after the ratification of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action for the empowerment of all women and girls. Originally a project of UNICEF, WGG then emerged as an NGO committee within UN Women.

Jeanne Carroll has served as a senior UN Representative for WFWP International for more than twelve years. She currently serves on the WGG Steering Committee and holds the position of Corresponding Secretary. Jeanne has also participated in a wide range of committees for the annual session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women.