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adding girls to the global agenda

ICJW together with UNICEF USA, & Together for Girls co-sponsored a side event at CSW61 entitled IT STARTS WITH SAFETY: Adding Girls to the Global Agenda

It was an amazing experience to be in the room with this panel of empowered adolescent girls. They were poised, articulate and the stories of their activism in their own countries…including the US… blew the audience away. At the end, there was a standing ovation and our international president, Robyn Lenn, in NY for the Status of Women meetings, remarked that the session was a perfect “10 out of 10”.

Fran Butensky of ICJW welcomed the capacity crowd and told a bit about ICJW. The moderator Daniela Ligiero, CEO of Together for Girls, introduced the panel and set the stage for the goals of the session: Why is it important to be a youth leader? What part does safety for girls play in the UN sustainable development goals? Why is safety a priority issue globally for girls? A discussion followed. 

Each member of the panel responded to the questions above and then, to a question posed by the moderator specific to her own advocacy expertise. I encourage you to review the event program and bios of the panel that is attached to get an important idea of the young women’s qualifications and initiatives.

While the entire program was excellent, here are some of the highlights:
• 25% of college women have experienced sexual assault
• Some women on the panel and in the audience shared that they had been victims of sexual assault
• If a friend shares that with you, it is important to say, “Thank you for telling me. I believe you”
• Activists should provide forums for girls to tell their stories to destigmatize abuse and assault
• Get help immediately after assault
• Martial arts training empowers women & girls both physically and emotionally
• Victims do NOT know where to seek help and simply don’t get it
• Girls must be empowered at the community level
• You must have power to affect change which is why youth activism is critical: it empowers girls
• Youth become informed and passionate about advocacy with a cellphone and a hashtag!
• Social media reports what is happening in your own community
• UNICEF USA has several initiatives to educate and prepare child advocates
• Voices of Youth online platform makes kids child reporters in and on their own communities
• You Report platform does 2 polls per week to collect data and present it to local governments
• Shut Out Trafficking raises awareness at the college level about trafficking in the US and empowers students to take action against it
• Ask and listen…don’t make assumptions…SPEAK GIRLS’ LANGUAGE AND LISTEN TO THEM
• When working at the community level, ask what THEY want and need
• They don’t want preplanned programs without having input
• Engage men and boys!!!!!
• Have high expectations and don’t set a low bar for youth
• Do not assume government won’t listen: talk to them, email them, use Facebook to reach them!

Report by Madeleine Brecher, ICJW UN NY Representative