Girls working for a better world send strong message to the G20 Summit

Cynthia Arvide – WNN Features

Girl suffering under poverty in Hermosillo, Mexico
Listening to the voice of this girl on-the-ground in Hermasillo, Mexico, who has a voice that is often pushed to the side, has been charted as one of the goals of the G(irls) 20 Summit 2012 in Mexico City. Image: Artotem

(WNN) Mexico City, MEXICO: Currently there are 3.5 billion girls and women in the world. This actually means to global advocates that there are 3.5 billion ways to change the world. The G(irls)20 Summit, in its third session, brought together 22 young women as delegates representing the G20 countries, including the African Union, to discuss issues and solutions for economic growth.

Gathering before the official G20 conference kicked off in Mexico City’s ITAM University (Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México), only weeks ahead of the G20, girl delegates proposed specific actions for world leaders countering the shortage of food supply, the work for women in agriculture and the rising violence that faces girls and women today.

They came to Mexico City to send a strong message to the leaders who have gathered for the G20 Summit in Los Cabos, Mexico, opening a critical debate and dialogue on the influence of girls and women as drivers of economic improvement for their communities and beyond. One of the goals — to deliver a document to influence the international Heads of State at this year’s G20 Summit.

“Too often we see decisive economical opportunities get lost when girls and women are underestimated and undervalued”, says Farah Mohamed, President of the G(irls)20 Summit. “By recognizing the important role that girls and women play in building strong economies and stable communities, the G20 has the opportunity to make strategic investments and make decisions that will allow significant results all over the world”.

During the first phase of the G(irls)20 Summit, the delegates talked leadership, media and public relations and how to become politically engaged. They also learned the value of business planning and storytelling to reach the public. As they attended panels and side-conferences given by top specialists they learned how society is changed by women. And how the impacts facing women cause all of society to change. Two of the key discussions covered: “opportunity gained: investing in women in agriculture” and “opportunity lost as a result of gender based violence”.

The ultimate goal of the G(irls)20 Summit is to present their message to the Mexican government as well as the leaders of the G20.”While women comprise nearly half of the agricultural labour force [globally], their potential remains unleveraged. It has been shown that secure land rights [for women] can increase agricultural production by 60 per cent and income by 150 per cent”, outlines the ‘official communiqué’ from the G(irls) Summit.

It is hoped that all delegates will go back to their communities and put their new ideas into practice.

“I think the potential for change is enormous, in terms of bringing together fresh ideas”, said Jeni Klugman, Director of Gender and Development at the World Bank Group, recently to WNN. “The group of girls itself has a lot of credibility because of its diversity and their caliber -they’re very impressive and thoughtful- and by connecting them, by giving them a sense of possibilities, the potential for making significant difference in their lives, and them in turn making significant change in the lives of others, is quite high”.

Delegates for the G(irls)20 Summit have been chosen because of their ‘strong’ will to bring about innovative solutions to problems they see affecting their countries and the world. Magdaly Santillanez, a delegate from Mexico and a high-school student from the state of Sinaloa, currently working on issues of global poverty by applying scientific research to help pilot a new and innovative program for global microfinance.

“…today I write about what we perfectly know: the humankind and our actions to take care of our home, the Earth, where more than seven billion of us live and out of those seven billion, 3.5 billion are girls and women”, Santillanez shared in her recent blog release made to The Huffington Post.

By putting the data in place, Santillanez wants to understand how microcredits and business training together is useful to improve the economic and social situation for those suffering under highest degree of global poverty.

“We must not think that this event is feminist or for women only”, Santillanez emphasized recently in an interview with WNN. “We are half of the world’s population and by empowering a girl or a woman you will improve not only her life, but her family’s and all the people around her as well”, she added.

This same idea resonated among many keynote speakers during the G(irls) Summit. “Men are [also] part of the solution and they’re benefited from whatever we do for women”, said Isatou Jallow, Chief of Women, Children and Gender Policy for the United Nations World Food Programme.

Delivering a ‘heartfelt’ speech during the G(irls)20 Summit outlining the role men can take in preventing violence against women, Jimmie Briggs, former journalist and founder of the Man Up Campaign, recalled having what he calls a, “life-changing moment”. When he met a woman in the Congo region of Africa who confessed to him her tragic story his life changed immediately.

She told Briggs she was gang-raped by the militia during the conflict in Congo, and saw her children and father killed in front of her. The shock of making such close contact with a woman who’s traumatic experience under conflict was so overwhelming to Briggs, caused him to discontinue his work as a journalist. Deciding to start instead the Man Up Campaign, Briggs now aims to activate global youth to stop all violence against women and girls worldwide.

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