While Plan has had a presence at the annual Commission on the Status of Women for a few years now, this 57th session is the first time I’ve attended…so wasn’t quite sure what to expect. However, knowing that we were hosting a few girls involved in Plan’s programs in Burkina Faso, El Salvador, Vietnam, and elsewhere, I was very much looking forward to hearing from them what their priorities are…and how they are affecting change in their own communities.
In listening to Marcela – our girl delegate from El Salvador – speak at today’s “Rise Up: Advocating for Girls Around the World” event sponsored by the UN Foundation and Girl Up, I was not disappointed. After an introduction by UN Foundation CEO Kathy Calvin and other speakers – including 10x10’s Director of NGO Partnerships Justin Reeves – girl delegates from Plan, the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, and Girl Up were asked to share their experiences and thoughts.
Marcela introduced herself first, and she spoke articulately about her involvement in Plan’s programs in El Salvador, sensitizing not just girls but entire communities about girls’ issues and advocating for their rights. She elicited a round of applause from the crowded room when talking about how her single mother’s hard work inspires her, and how she uses what she’s learned through Plan’s programs to ensure she, her sisters, and her mother are aware of their right to be protected from violence. What an amazing young woman…and what a reminder to me that young people are their own best advocates when given the opportunity to fulfill their potential.
I think back to when I was 17…and am humbled both by the challenges these girls face, as well as by their strength and determination to overcome those challenges, not letting those barriers define who and what they are and will become. Sitting in a room of people who are all committed to supporting these girls – and the millions of others around the world – reinforces the belief that when we work together to ensure these voices are heard…change can happen.