When you choose to invest in girls and women, studies show that they will re-invest 90 percent of their income back into their family and the community, compared to their male counterparts who only give back 30 percent. Females make up over half of our world's population, yet they receive one percent of the world's foreign aid. This is exactly the cause that has brought together 21 fiercely passionate and powerful girls between the ages of 18 and 20 representing the females from their respective countries at the G(irls)20 Summit.
One of the main themes for the summit is the economic empowerment of women. The delegates here represent the unheard voices of millions of girls worldwide, and are examples of how far women can go when they are empowered and given the opportunity to. After meeting all of the delegates, I learned that despite the fact that they come from different walks of life, they all share one thing in common: a radiant passion for bringing women's issues to the forefront. Together, they stand to face what is one of the 21st century's greatest obstacles -- the marginalization and disenfranchisement of women. When women are neglected as leaders, a society is disabling over half of its population from contributing to both their communities and economies. The girls I have met at the G(irls)20 Summit truly exemplify what it means to be a leader, and I have to ask myself: "What would happen if these incredibly inspiring and strong-minded girls were set-back by gender-based discrimination?"
I have been lucky enough to be given the opportunity to meet these girls and have them share their ideas and enthusiasm with me. If there is anything that is possibly more inspiring than the girls themselves, it would have to be their overall message, which is that there are millions, if not billions, of girls who have the capacity to be as influential as they are. The delegates are here to have not only their voices heard, but also the millions of lost voices, in their struggle to become empowered in male-dominated societies. Now, if you will let me, here is just a taste of what these girls are saying.
"You see all these statistics of what can be gained, but this isn't happening. So it's very much an opportunity lost." - Claire Charness, Canada
"I think there is dialogue missing, there are laws missing, and I think educating people... would help a lot in this situation." - Sally Dimachki, France
"In terms of women's and girls' rights, it's actually interesting because... no matter if we are boys or girls, we all agreed at the G20 Youth Summit to advance women in our agenda (and we actually listed this in our communiqué as one of the biggest things). So if the young people believe, we also need to believe, and the G20 leaders need to believe in that, because we're 50 percent of the total population and we are really a strong force." - Disty Winata, Indonesia
"I think the glasses of the culture and the messages that are constantly bombarded at people kind of limit their ability to think outside of it and look beyond it and be really critical about whether this should be the way it is." - Veronica Cho, South Korea
"The inequality is always there -- there has to be someone to speak up. Someone to speak up to the government, to the world, so there can be more forces towards equality." - Kefei Wu, China
"What I'd like to see more of is an acceptance from the community. A lot of the businesses that are male-dominated, if they were to choose between hiring a man and a woman, would choose a man because there's a belief that a man can do a job better in those particular jobs. " - Angelica Casado, Australia
"We have to debunk the foundation of the problem rather than just looking at the problem." - Thato Zoe Mokoena, South Africa
"I think that gender inequity is still a huge issue in the United States because women, although they have a lot of the same opportunities, still aren't presented as being as capable as men. We have a comparable amount of opportunity however I feel that women are still very much taken advantage of and still very stereotyped in the United States. I think that the biggest issue is image... Women are seen as incapable, or too passive, or just not good leaders and so women just aren't taken seriously and it's still a very patriarchal society." - Elisabeth Jessop, United States of America
"Everything that we do, directly or indirectly, affects women. So I just think that more women are needed in official decision-making processes... The more we talk about it, the more women are going to realize that it's necessary that they get involved so that it affects them." - Glender Favour, African Union
"We have to get girls and women interested in politics for us to be able to move forward." - Barbara Cesar, Brazil
"I want to use this platform so that I can go back and use my voice and be the voice of all those who are waiting to be heard." - Priyanka Roychoudhury, India
"Diversity in the workplace creates more opportunities." - Tomoko Kaida, Japan
"This is not only an issue concerning the girls, it is also concerning the men. Because if we help a girl, she is going to help all the people around her, and that is what is called the 'girl effect,' and everyone can benefit from that." - Magdaly Santillanez, Mexico
"We need to encourage more people to talk about this issue." - Kseniya Sukhotina, Russia
"We're seeing changes... With time, [women] are going to have more chances." - Noura Al Otaiwi, Saudi Arabi
"Our government should give more grants to employed women." - Vera Campanelli, Italy
"We're trying to find different, creative ways to put equality on the table." - Segal Hussein, European Union
"No one actually says the news, they're just saying things that are for one thing or another." - Lucia San Martin
"In terms of opportunities that women could or should have, I think it's more a case of first building confidence in women that you can have a career and home life and there is such thing as work-life balance. The second thing is that women are strong enough to do it... and building self-confidence is important."- Megumi Yamamoto, United Kingdom