The United Nations Foundation Initiative Empowering Girls Globally: Girl Up

Op-ed

Meet the United Nations Foundation Initiative uniting thousands and millions of girls all around the globe- say hello to Girl Up! As their Instagram bio proclaims, “when girls rise, we all rise.”

Girl Up: Connection for Change

Did you know that there's not a single country in the world where women are equal? The campaign is “a movement to advance girls’ skills, rights, and opportunities to be leaders.”

Girl Up encourages young girls to step up to be the spark and guide them on their journey, “from leader to changemaker with specialized programming on global gender issues and in organizing, advocacy, fundraising, and communication.”

The Teen Magazine is proud to present an interview with Girl Up Initiative Executive Director Melissa Kilby.

The Start of Girl Up and The Mission

How did Girl Up begin, and what is its mission? What are the goals hoped to be accomplished?

Girl Up was launched by the United Nations Foundation in 2010. Girl Up’s mission is to develop, mobilize, and activate a powerful generation of girl change-makers who advance gender equality for every girl, everywhere.

We are working to achieve increased opportunities, agency, and well-being for girls of all backgrounds; shifts in public perception about the value of girls; and the implementation of policies that support girls’ rights and equality.

A Fast Growing Popularity

Why do you think Girl Up Has gained so much popularity in such A short amount of time?

Girl Up’s growing success throughout different communities is credited to young girls who use their passion to help girls find theirs.

“Girl Up has evolved a lot over the last decade. The world has seen drastic changes and the teen girls of today are not the same as those who were first engaged with Girl Up in the early years,” writes Girl Up.

“Girl Up has grown because we have followed the lead of the young change-makers leading this movement. Our by girls, for girls approach has leaned on a dynamic, diverse Teen Advisory Board since day one of Girl Up. That strategy has ensured that Girl Up is relevant, continues to evolve, and is gaining more momentum every day.”

In The Future

Where do you see Girl Up in the next 10 years?

Many club and program leaders are always excited to see new paths that Girl Up takes. Here is a sneak peek:

In ten years, Girl Up will expand its national and international presence around the world.

Not only will we continue to engage teens, young change-makers, and our collaborators in gender equality, but we will also have a robust global alumni network where our global community can grow and support each other well into their careers, as leaders in business, in growing industries, and as elected officials making the very decisions that can move us toward true equality around the world.

Something New

If there was one thing Girl Up would do differently, what would it be?

One goal of Girl Up is to add more diversity to the staff team.

More languages and a larger staff team — we wish we could engage and support even more girls in the global Girl Up community. One day we will!

A Challenge & An Accomplishment

What is a challenge Girl Up has faced? What would be said to be Girl Up’s biggest accomplishment with regard to its mission?

Girl Up recognizes the differences each girl faces in different countries and at times has struggled to overcome those strategies.

The experience of being a girl is not the same around the world. As times and society change, we have to keep up to support our girls. We’ve evolved but also adapted and it has meant a lot of change every year. That can be hard on a team and on our community.

Girl Up has always been a small and mighty team, and the work we've been able to do together throughout this last decade is our greatest accomplishment.

Networking to Hundreds

How has Girl Up been able to reach 125 countries and all 50 states?

Girl Up Clubs typically start in one of two ways — someone knows a girl in another Girl Up Club and so is inspired to start their own. Or, they see Girl Up online through a Google search, a social post by a friend or brand, or a public figure who works with Girl Up.

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It’s a grassroots organization that has grown across borders and geography because the fight for gender equality is global. There is still nowhere in the world where girls are equal.

Advice From Girl Up

If you could give one piece of advice to girls who work in male-dominated fields what would it be?

If there is at least one thing you should take away from this article it is this piece of advice to young girls:

“Be brave. Don’t back down from your ideas, don’t quiet your voice. Every step forward you make clears the path for another girl or woman who wants to work in your field. Be brave for the next girl coming up behind you.”

Be brave.

-Girl Up

Something To Last Forever

What do you hope girls take away from being a part of Girl Up?

I want girls to believe, and embrace, that they are powerful. The very things that make them unique are the things that give them power; power to change the world, to change their communities, to change hearts and minds.

Believing in ourselves is the greatest tool we have to unlock our power and show the world what we are capable of!

Can You Join?

Who is eligible to join the club? Do you have to be a girl? If yes, why?

Any young person around the world can join or start a club. You just need four friends, an internet connection, and a passion for achieving gender equality. Boys and gender non-conforming people are welcome.

Equal is equal.

Proud To Be With Girl Up

As someone who is involved and works for the organization, what makes you the most content and proud about your career with Girl Up?

This work, this journey, demands persistence and resilience. It hasn't been easy, but it's worth it.

I'm proud of the ways I've learned to listen, grow, and adapt to keep Girl Up moving forward. I'm proud of this team and my contributions to it.

My Personal Experiences with Girl Up:

As a person who has been a member of the Girl Up club at my school for the best 3 years, I have found a new admiration for women not only in America, but for women around the world. Each week, we recognize a woman who has either worked in men-dominated fields or have given opportunities to other girls in their community.

Before I joined Girl Up, I struggled to find confidence whether that be speaking in front of a crowd or body image.

Ted Talks, encouraging phrases like “you are beautiful” and compliments didn’t work for me, so I was apprehensive about joining the club after my friends told me their “transformation” was like day and night.

Girl Up was different from the other clubs I had tried out because I got to know the other girls on a casual level outside of school rather than just talking to them during club hours.

At the first meeting I attended, all the girls and our teacher sponsor brought forth goals of how much money we wanted to raise for the club, how we wanted to do it, and mapped out our timeline. The idea of working with people who are like-minded in a new school allowed me to broaden my network and meet mutual friends.

Now that I am in my third year, I am so grateful I have a group of girls who I can empower and apply what I learned from graduated club members.

Quick Clicks

Tap on the photos you see through this link and get to know some more with information relating to the mission.

You can tap on any image to learn more.

Keep Up!

Find Girl Up's Instagram @girlupcampaign and tweet your support to @GirlUp on Twitter!

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Ela Eryilmaz

Ela is a Turkish-American Junior attending High School in Massachusetts. She loves to participate in political campaigns to further her knowledge about social issues. She is the founder of a social enterprise, Next Page, that helps refugees around the world. Ela enjoys learning about international relations, languages, and history.