Unite for Girls, Change the World
United Nations program Girl Up kicks off tour in Atlanta
On April 30, the Unite for Girls Tour kicked off at the Atlanta Girls' School in Atlanta, Georgia. The tour was organized by the Girl Up campaign, a United Nations Foundation program aimed at empowering girls in the United States to become global leaders by positively changing the lives of girls in developing countries.
Hundreds of girls and even boys from around the area were at the event to support the cause and to learn more about the issues adolescent girls faced in nations like Malawi, Liberia, Ethiopia, and Guatemala. Visitors carried passports to virtually travel to different countries through the displays set up in the school.
"It gives us an opportunity to come into a community and give girls a multimedia experience and event that helps them learn what it's like for girls in developing countries their age," Gina , the Director of Girl Up, told the Scholastic News Kids Press Corps. "So what we teach them is what it's like for a day in the life of a girl who may have to carry water eight to 10 hours a day. We're here to help folks learn what it's like, but also turning it into action."
The kids at the Unite For Girls Tour kick-off heard from numerous panelists and speakers who talked to them about the hardships of girls in developing countries.
"Billions of girls around the world spend countless hours gathering fuel, wood, water instead of doing what all of you are doing today: going to school," said Jennifer Redner, a U.S. Policy Consultant. "It really is something that requires you to realize your potential. To learn, grow, and thrive."
Other speakers included Cynthia Nash, Honorary Consul General of the Republic of Liberia; Amanda Moll, Senior Project Coordinator at CARE USA; and Dr. Beverly Tatum, President of Spelman College. Also present to support the cause were actress Tika Sumpter from the TV series Gossip Girl and Justin Reeves, a documentary filmmaker and journalist.
A highlight of the two-hour event was the child marriage panel. This was a discussion about girls who are forced into illegal marriages and the harmful long-term effects these marriages have on them.
"Right now, there are an estimated 60 million girls [under the age of] 18 who are currently married in developing countries," Moll said. "And if the trend continues the way it has then in the next 10 years there will be an additional one hundred million who are married."
There are many ways to contribute in making a difference for girls around the world.
Girl Up encourages people to participate in programs by either donating to the organization or spreading awareness. For example, you can start a Girl Up club in your area with only five members. You can exchange letters with a girl in another part of the world less fortunate than you. You can also sign a petition on the Girl Up website against child marriage and read about the stories of girls in developing countries.
"When you think about what Girl Up can do in the world — what can you do in the world?" Nash asked the crowd. "When we think about simple things like soap and hand sanitation and sanitary napkins; one of the charges that we take on when we take these mission trips is we pack our suitcases full of sanitary supplies. Things that we take for granted, these young women don't have."
"It's going to take the world to invest in girls," Reiss-Wilchins said.
To learn more about Girl Up and the Unite For Girls Tour, visit the Girl Up website.
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