24 July 2014

The 21st Century Girl

28 Too Many's Youth Delegate Ella Sivan blogs on the #YouthforChange conference which was held in London on Saturday 19th July and brought together young people from across the world who are passionate about girls' rights and ending FGM and CEFM.

There is little doubt that 21st century world is growing, developing, changing. What you may not know is that so is the 21st century girl. Technology has permitted unprecedented global connections. It is through these shared connections, knowledge, and passions that the 21st century girl is evolving so fast. The #YouthForChange event that I was lucky enough to attend was a fantastic illustration of these connections, and the power they can have. 

In the lead up to the world’s first Girl Summit almost 200 young people from across the world met to discuss and kickstart the global youth movement to end all Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and Child, Early and Forced Marriage (CEFM). One of the first speakers, 16-year-old Hannah Godefa, spoke powerfully about the importance of education and spreading awareness of these two key issues. She believes that “we as young people have immense potential”, a point that she has demonstrated through leading by example (at 16 she has founded her own NGO to help educate girls and become the UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for Ethiopia). Her energy, passion, and immense achievements, encouraged those who watched her to believe that we can be a part of this change.

After lunch I attended a workshop hosted by members of TEDxEuston. They discussed with us the best way to plan a successful TEDxTalk which would raise awareness of crippling consequences FGM and CEFM for both individuals and their communities. This session showed me that face-to-face speeches are a powerful tool to educate and mobilise large numbers of people. Possibly more importantly, it demonstrated that the impact of such events can be multiplied through social media which can be used to promote the event, spread the message, and gather momentum to support the movement. In our new 21st century world the mixture of both physical and virtual communications appears to be the key to solving injustices and hastening the end of harmful practices such as FGM and CEFM.

By the end of the day my head was buzzing with thoughts, ideas and optimism. These feelings were reinforced by the impassioned speech delivered by the Youth Panel, and moving personal pledges shared by individuals. The result may not be instantaneous, but a million drops in the ocean is sure to create a ripple effect. Technology and social media is providing a means of harnessing this movement. Spreading the message, breaking the silence, is creating a strong and steady wave of change which is sweeping the world – and the influence of the 21st century girl is becoming stronger every day.