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Girl Up: The UN’s Awesome Idea to Encourage American Girls to Invest in Their Peers Across the Globe

May 16, 2010

While flipping through the June issue of Glamour, I came across something I’d love to spend my hard-earned money on. No, it’s not a new fashion trend or beauty product. It’s a new United Nations program designed to encourage American girls to invest in the lives of girls in developing countries.

The article “Your $5 Can Save a Girl’s Life” describes UN Executive Director of Global Partnerships Elizabeth Gore’s inspiration for the program, called Girl Up.

Elizabeth Gore can’t forget the girl she met in Ethiopia last year. The 12-year-old had fled her family to avoid becoming a child bride, and was now working 18-hour days as a maid. Her only respite: a few hours each day learning to read and write.

“I can’t stop thinking about her,” says Gore, 33, director of global partnerships for the United Nations Foundation. “After that trip, I thought, Wouldn’t it be amazing to give girls in the United States the chance to invest in girls like her?”

The program will ask American girls to help improve the quality of life for girls in developing countries by raising funds to support initiatives in five key areas: education, health services, safety, leadership, and data collection. Donations of even just $5, called a High Five (how cute is that?) will buy school supplies for a girl.

Further details on the program are scarce at the moment—the program website says more information is coming in June. However in an interview last year with Campus Progress, Gore explained that the program will initially focus on five countries and hopefully expand to 20, with a focus on a certain issue in each country like child marriage or education. The United Nation Foundation’s website spells out just how critical it is to address these issues:

From access to education and health care, to freedom from violence and HIV/AIDS, to delaying child marriage and early pregnancy, we work with the UN and NGO communities to tackle the complex issues and challenges that girls face today.

We believe that adolescent girls are critical to meeting the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The well-being of adolescent girls is the key to eliminating poverty, achieving social justice, stabilizing the population, and preventing foreseeable humanitarian crises.

Many in the international development community believe that investing in women’s wellbeing and education is the most efficient way to improve quality of life in a developing nation. I love the idea of Girl Up not only because it aims to make that investment, but also because it should raise American girls’ (and hopefully boys’ too!) consciousness of the needs and power of girls their own age across the globe. Too often we Americans are indifferent to what’s going on in the rest of the world, until a war or a natural disaster brings our attention to the adversity our fellow human beings face. Girl Up asks American girls (and women) to think about the everyday lives of girls who don’t have all the opportunities we take for granted—as in this video.

Girl Up

Of course, we can’t truly celebrate this program unless it proves to be successful.  No one program such as this can serve as a panacea for women’s rights and health issues. And as Jessica reported earlier this month, the UN has made some questionable decisions lately in the area of women’s rights. But Elizabeth Gore has a successful track record with the UN’s Nothing But Nets program which has raised $30 million for bed nets that help stop the spread of malaria in Africa. I’m rooting for Girl Up to be just as successful.

It’s great to target American girls with the request to think about the needs of girls around the world and to instill in them the desire to help. But also, just think about the message girls on both sides of this program could gain from the program: YOU are powerful. You have the power to change someone’s life. You have the power to change your own life and your nation, starting with your education. That’s a message sure to inspire confidence and a proactive approach to life.

Who knows, maybe instead of saying it’s time to “man up,” soon Americans will tell each other it’s time to “girl up.”


We regret that a transcript of the above video is not available.

2 Comments
  1. May 21, 2010 6:54 pm

    Thank you Erin! I spread the word through my huffpo blog: http://huff.to/a8RSnC and publicly thanked you there.

  2. Maria Price permalink
    May 28, 2010 6:12 pm

    I’ve already made Elizabeth Gore my role model of the week….which I mention on my facebook status…Yes I put the website link there too! I’m giving a high five!

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