Bringing the experiences of girls to life

October 26, 2016

Johnnie is a member of the Plan International USA’s Youth Advisory Board

Data collection is important because it makes girls visible, and once they are visible, it is important that we are active partners with them every step of the way when it comes to their empowerment.

Storytelling was one of the most significant elements of this International Day of the Girl because it allowed us to focus on the theme of data, which can be complex and impersonal, while bringing the experiences of girls around the world to life.

A highlight of my time as a member of Plan International USA’s Day of the Girl delegation was Plan’s event for supporters. Through our presentation we were able to very clearly draw the connection between storytelling and data, which seemed to be very impactful for the audience.

Having my peers from Uganda and El Salvador express the obstacles that girls face in their communities like child marriage and sexual violence was powerful, and it was an experience that couldn’t be conveyed through a simple infographic. I vividly remember the looks of shock and disappointment that were across every face in the room when one of the youth delegates said that the number of children who do not attend school is almost the same as the population of Mexico. We presented eye-opening information while sharing our stories as young people in our communities which brought the situation of girls around the world to life.

The day after our presentation was the official International Day of the Girl, and I gave my speech at the Economic and Social Council chamber of the United Nations as a part of the Girl Takeover initiative. My speech focused on my own personal experience with harassment while pointing out the intersection of cultural norms and gender-based violence.  I had the privilege of giving one of the speeches at the event, which meant that I was able to talk about an issue that means a lot to me, and to hundreds of people. The audience included many people who work to make our dream of an equitable world a reality every day. Through the event, I was able to meet many inspirational young women who are also committed to advocating for the rights of girls all over the world, and the experience was engaging and attention-grabbing from start to finish.

Being a member of a delegation means that you’re given a platform to speak your mind about important issues. But, beyond the advocacy component, there is an element of support and friendship that makes the experience unforgettable. We were a delegation of three countries and we were able to work through language barriers and jet lag while coming together. One of my favorite moments was when I helped translate for Aminah from Uganda who wanted to talk with Vicki from El Salvador about our days and how we were doing. It felt like I was a direct bridge between two worlds and cultures, which is such a special thing. We tried new foods together, gave each other feedback and support, and on the last day, we all hugged and said our goodbyes while promising to keep in touch. We bonded so much over the course of the week, and I am extremely proud to have been a member of an amazing, passionate, driven and inspiring delegation.