G(irls)20 Summit 2013: Girls Count

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Rubina Magazine catches up with Karina Jougla, a Youth Champion for Girl Up who recently attended the annual G(irls)20 Summit this summer. She has been involved with the campaign since its launch in 2010, serving two terms as a Teen Advisor. Karina regularly blogs for Girl Up, hosts workshops in New York and California, and runs the Girl Up Reading Club. Originally from Carpinteria, California, she is currently a sophomore at Columbia University studying Comparative Literature and French. 

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I recently had the chance to be a fly on the wall at the fourth annual G(irls)20 Summit held in Moscow, Russia this June. I was attending the summit as a representative of Girl Up, the United Nations Foundation campaign to support adolescent girls in developing countries, along with our fabulous director Melissa Hillebrenner. In Moscow, I spent the week attending workshops, panels, and discussions with 21 amazing college-aged girls from the G20 countries, plus a representative from the African Union.

 The first day of the summit, which was fittingly hosted at Google’s Moscow office, focused on the theme “Opportunity Gained: Jobs, Growth, and Investment.” Google is doing incredible work to give female entrepreneurs the resources they need to succeed through their initiative Women Entrepreneurs on the Web (WeOW).  WeOW provides trainings and online tools for women through their programs in India, Russia, and Singapore, and are expanding to other countries. Google also has a similar program called Women in Technology to connect women in the Middle East and Africa to tech opportunities and to each other. Archana Doshi from Bangalore, India is one of WeOW’s success stories. Google helped Archana expand her cooking blog Archana’s Kitchen with live-streaming technology so that she could hold online cooking classes, and she has now started a catering company. Entrepreneurs like Archana are proof of what women can accomplish when they are able to combine their bright ideas with technology.

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 The second day of the summit focused on “Opportunity Lost: If We Do Not Eradicate Early Forced Marriage.” Here’s what preventing early forced marriage, or child marriage, looks like for a girl. She will have a dramatically lower risk of contracting HIV, and she will be less likely to die from complications in childbirth, which even in 2013 is the leading cause of death among girls ages 15-19 worldwide. Since she isn’t married, she can stay in school, increasing her future income by 10-20% with each additional year of schooling. This means that, not only is she boosting her earning power and the economy, but when she has children on her own terms, she will be better equipped to provide for them, which in turn improves the next generation’s education and health outcomes. This is why we can’t create a future of prosperity and equality without girls, and without putting an end to child marriage.

 For me, the moment of the summit that gave me chills came during the workshop I gave on the theme “Girls Count.” Being counted is one of Girl Up’s five issue areas (the other four are education, health, safety, and leadership). Not only are girls literally uncounted in countries like Ethiopia where they often don’t have birth certificates or passports (making it difficult for them to prove their age in child marriage cases), but we go uncounted in other ways when the world’s governments fail to take us into account and recognize our worth as human beings. In an improv activity, I asked the delegates to share a story of a girl, real or fictional, from their home country who was counted or uncounted.

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“Girls Count” workshop

 The stories they shared took my breath away: in Argentina, a girl wishes she could walk freely on the street without fearing sexual assault. In China, a girl’s life is devalued when her parents name her the equivalent of “I wish you had been born a boy.” In the United Kingdom, a girl worries about the double standard placed on women when they are accused of being bad mothers if they are career-driven, but accused of abandoning the cause of feminism if they choose to focus on motherhood. It became even more clear that stories like these cut across culture and geography when we watched the film Girl Rising about nine girls from around the world who made themselves count (if you haven’t had a chance to see Girl Rising, I highly recommend it!).

So, here’s the message I’m bringing back from the G(irls)20 Summit: let’s make sure that girls and women count. Join me in working to make the words the delegates wrote in their communiqué to the G20 a reality: “It is imperative that the leading nations of the world take steps to ensure every girl’s safe passage into adulthood, and to [ensure] her full potential as a vibrant and productive global citizen.”

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