Girl Up 2014 Leadership Summit

by Carol Lopes ’15

gT2k880SCarol is a junior at George School and a dancer. A peer group leader, she is in the Model UN, Women’s Issues Now, and Puzzle clubs and on the soccer, basketball, and softball teams. She cites Shift (working in the dining hall) among her most interesting activities because it lets her get close to fellow students, “help the community, and be thankful for the kitchen workers.”

Today was the first day of the Girl Up Summit in Washington D.C. I will take a moment to talk a little bit about Girl Up. Girl Up is a United Nations campaign in which they provide girls around the United States and the world the opportunity to become leaders and spread global awareness. In addition the campaign raises funds for UN projects that are channeled to help the world’s hardest-to-reach teenage girls. There are more than 600 million girls living in developing countries and the large majority of them don’t have access to education and have to turn to early marriage and labor in order to make a living for themselves. Some girls don’t even have a choice their families and cultures demand them to leave school at an early age to become a housewife.

When I heard about the Girl Up project I thought it was a great opportunity for me to learn more about this topic since it’s a problem that is so common in my home country of Brazil. With the help of Girl Up I will be able to start a project that will, hopefully, raise enough funds to help girls in need. The Summit is three days long and we spend one day on Capitol Hill where we meet with a member of Senate to discuss the difficulties women are facing in the world today and how we hope to make a change.

On Monday, the summit started at 8:00 a.m. with a breakfast for the participants. This was a time for us to talk and meet girls from everywhere in America. I am lucky to be the only girl from Brazil attending this conference and I seem to keep getting the same question: “Why are you here when the World Cup is going on in your country?” I take a few minutes to explain how my passion for soccer brought awareness to how girls are underestimated in Brazil and that made me want to attend the conference even more.

After breakfast we were separated into our groups. Each group had a round table consisting of around nine girls and a mentor. My mentor was Jerome Sauvage, deputy director of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Representation Office in D.C. His job is to develop and maintain partnerships for the UNDP between the United States and other non-profit and for-profit sectors of the country. He is a very good role model to follow since he is a such a big advocate for women’s rights. He was extremely excited to work with us and made us feel comfortable in asking any types of questions. During the day we had the opportunity to listen to a several speakers which included:

-Peter Yeo: Vice President of the Public Policy and Advocacy for the UN Foundation

-Jennifer Simon: Senior Policy Advisor of the First Lady (she brought a special message from Mrs. Michelle Obama)

-Laura Bode: Founder and President of iLive2Leadinternational

-Monique Coleman: High School Musical actress and a Girl Up Advocate herself

-Ingrid Vanderveldt: CEO of Ingrid Vanderveldt LLC

-Shawn Robinson: Co-host of Access Hollywood

-Amy Robach: Anchor of Good Morning America

These amazing speakers talked about the difficulty women face in today’s business world and helped us develop the leaders in us. They had many insightful points and I want to share a few that stuck with me:

1)     If you don’t believe in yourself, one else will.

2)     Being a leader is not only about having followers but inspiring other people to want to be leaders.

3)     Believe not in yourself, but in your cause.

4)     Most girls in America are fortunate to choose some paths and refuse others, while girls in developing country don’t have that opportunity.

5)     It is important to show men that you are just as confident as they are and that you have the same abilities that they do. This can be difficult to achieve.

6)     A setback is just a setup for a comeback, so you should never give up the first time you fail.

These things really stuck in my mind and I have been reflecting on these points since the first session was over.

Tuesday we have a full day of workshops to teach us how to apply these leadership qualities in the project we are planning to start. I have a bunch of ideas on how George School can help Girl Up and connect with the WIN (Womens Issue Now) club and anyone else that wants to participate. I will keep you all posted about my day tomorrow and I’m excited to learn more from the amazing leaders that are going to run workshops tomorrow.

Congrats USA on the win against Ghana!

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