On Friday, October 10, the Nobel Prize Committee recognized Malala Yousafzai for her courageous advocacy on behalf of girl’s education. It was particularly compelling that the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to a girl on the day that we at the UN celebrated the third annual International Day of the Girl Child. The theme for this year’s Day of the Girl was “Empowering Adolescent Girls: Ending the Cycle of Violence.”
Malala’s award is a prominent recognition of the wonderful work that she and others have done for the promotion and protection of girls’ rights, and for the empowerment of girls around the world — but it is also a call for action. In this spirit, the Loretto Community at the UN, and the other members of the Working Group on Girls (WGG) celebrated at the second annual Girls Speak Out, an event co-organized by the WGG with the missions of Canada, Turkey and Peru.
The Girls Speak Out featured a live multimedia presentation of moving stories, poetry, songs and videos shared by girls from Afghanistan, Australia, Canada, Guatemala, Hong Kong, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Malawi, Nepal, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, the United States, the United Kingdom and Zimbabwe, and performed by girls from the New York area. The girls bravely shared emotional stories relating to family and relationships, education, sexual violence, confidence and body image, poverty, child marriage and empowerment.
After each set of performances, ambassadors and delegates from member states, executive directors from UN agencies such as UNICEF, UNFPA and UN Women, and a Special Representative of the Secretary-General responded to the powerful performances they had witnessed, and reaffirmed their commitments to the rights of girls. Geeta Rao Gupta, Deputy Executive General of UNICEF, spoke from the heart as she addressed the girls:
“I have to say that I listened very carefully, because those were your instructions to us. I listened very carefully, and I have to share with you that it made me both sad and very happy, personally. It made me sad because I would have told those same stories when I was 16 – so nothing has changed. What made me happy – I would have never had this opportunity. What you are doing today, here, in front of the UN is exceptional. So the world has changed. So you showed us not just that girls speak out, but that girls lead, girls dare to dream big, but most importantly, girls do – girls can move the world. And that is the energy that you can feel in the room today. The ECOSOC Chamber, let me tell you all, has never felt like this before. So come again, help energize us, because I say that we stand behind you, we commit to your rights. I commit to Geeta the 16-year-old. So thank you.”
If you missed the event, you can watch it in its entirety here: