The past three days, over 100 passionate, energetic, and excited teen girls from around the country gathered in the Sun Trust building in Washington, D.C. for the 2nd Annual Girl Up Leadership Summit. Topics included how to use social media for social good, ethical story telling, how to write a strong op-ed, global health, microfinance, how to lead a successful Girl Up club, and many other exciting topics all led by impressive and engaging speakers. Five inspiring highlights resonated with me.
1. Fueling inspiration into action
High School Musical star and UN Youth Champion, Monique Coleman, said, "Inspiration without action is like a car without gas." CEO of Omnilife and Girl Up supporter Angelica Fuentes emphasized, "You girls have started a fire, you must keep the flame burning." She also stated, "Small dreams don't bring about large change. Dream big!" Girls at the leadership summit were inspired by a range of speakers the first two days and fueled that inspiration into action on the third day when they lobbied on Capitol Hill.
2. Uniting girls to change the world
Attendees had the opportunity to "Skype" with a Girl Up club in Thailand. The club had recently held a Girl Rising Screening, just as many of the girls in attendance had. This was a perfect demonstration of Girl Up's motto "Uniting Girls to Change the World" in action. It was so inspiring to see how girls around the world cared about improving the lives of girls in the developing world and were joining together to raise funds and awareness.
3. The president shines a light on women's and girls' issues
Tina Tchen, assistant to the president, chief of staff to the first lady and executive director on the White House Council for Women and Girls, shared the actions the White House is taking to prioritize women and girls. According to Tchen, President Obama believes the best indicator of a country's success is how they treat their women and girls. It is wonderful that the White House is giving much needed attention to women and girls, and has formed councils specifically dedicated to them.
4. Putting the fun in fundraising
Girls learned how to fundraise in creative and exciting ways. It was refreshing to see the private sector making it easier than ever for teens to fundraise for causes about which they're passionate. Viva Dress Up allows girls to donate gently worn special occasion dresses in exchange for donations to Girl Up. Girls can also host a fundraiser with Electronic Recyclers International Inc. by collecting old electronics, which helps reduce our electronic waste and raise money for Girl Up. In both programs girls never have to ask friends or family for cash! Lastly, Girl Up's Coffee for a Cause campaign allows girls to sell coffee grown in Guatemala, one of Girl Up's focus countries. Girl Up and the farmers in Guatemala share the proceeds.
5. Our voices are heard on Capital Hill
On the last day of the Summit, over 100 girls stormed Capital Hill armed with passion and knowledge gained over the previous two days. Girls met with their elected officials and informed them about issues facing girls in the developing world and urged them to make girls a priority on their foreign policy agenda by ensuring they're counted, with birth identification and in data collection. Not only was there visible growth of knowledge and confidence in girls from the start of the week but elected officials and their staffers responded eagerly and ready to help.