By Rudina Vojvoda
NEW YORK, USA, 17 October 2011 – Representatives from United Nations agencies, governments, the private sector and civil society recently gathered at the Women & Girls Education Summit in New York, to explore linkages between girls’ education and economic dev.
As a follow up to the event, UNICEF podcast moderator Femi Oke spoke with Martha Adams, producer of ‘10x10’, a film encouraging investment in girls’ education, Patricia Velasquez, president of the Wayúu Tayá Foundation, which provides culturally sensitive assistance to indigenous Wayúu children, Lakshmi Puri, the Assistant Secretary-General for Intergovernmental Support and Strategic Partnerships at the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) and Ariana Tsapralis, an activist at Girl Up, a United Nations campaign that engages girls in girls’ and women’s empowerment.
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Starting from scratch
Martha Adams shared her experiences interviewing young girls suffering under the yoke of gender discrimination and debilitating poverty. “Countries like Haiti are almost starting from scratch,” she said. “The situation is dire.”
Despite their many challenges, her young film subjects remain determined to rise above their seemingly insurmountable conditions, creating new opportunities for themselves and for all girls – a fact which serves as a major inspiration to Ms. Adams.
“There are countless examples where girls are changing the tide,” she said. “They are literally the very, very first girls to stop the cycle of poverty, to stop the cycle of discrimination.”
Stressing the importance of the collective effort being made between individuals and organisations to ensure a better educated generation of women, Ms. Velasquez spoke about opportunity. “I believe that we are a big family, and the family gets bigger and bigger,” she said of the organisations represented at the Summit. “We are giving, through the work of the organisation, an opportunity to somebody else to become a better person.”
Agents of change
Underscoring Ms. Adams’ observation that girls’ education can create a cascade of positive outcomes in the lives of women around the world, Ms. Pruri said: “Girls and women can be enabled to be agents of change, and we hope to be midwife to some of that.”
Through her work at Girl Up, Ms. Tsapralis encourages girls to become activists on behalf of disadvantaged girls around the world. She is motivated by the inequality she sees every day. “I can’t sit down and let these things happen around me,” she explained.
She hopes other girls will be similarly inspired. “This is something that anyone can do,” she said. “Any girl, from 10 years old, can join this organisation and be part of something that is changing the world.”