*This guest post was written by my daughter’s best friend 17 year old Allie Myers. She shares with us her experience at the Girl Up Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C.*
My best friend Sophia invited me to go to Washington, D.C. with her for the Girl Up Leadership Summit. I quickly said yes to going, even though I was unsure of what to expect. Girl Up is a UN Foundation Campaign that supports programs fighting for rights such as health, safety, education, and leadership for girls in developing countries.
The Leadership Summit lasted three days, two of which were held in the Ronald Reagan International Trade Center where girls around the world gathered to learn and share their experiences. Speakers such as Ashley Graham, Dr. Jen Welter, Monique Coleman, Kate Gilmore, Marley Dias, Rosie Rios, Yara Shahidi, Jaclynn Brennan and other influential women spoke about how they got where they are today and the struggles they faced due to their gender or ethnicity. Every woman who shared her story and overcome such obstacles were strong, motivational, and beautiful both inside and out.
Ashley Graham- model, designer, and body activist
Dr. Jen Welter- first female coach in NFL (Arizona Cardinals)
Monique Coleman- Actress and Girl Up Champion
Each day we had the chance to choose the workshops we would attend. I chose to go to a workshop that prepared me for the day on Capitol Hill where I’d speak with Congressmen, one that taught me about the issue of child marriage, the refugee situation, and I even took time for a Yoga workshop. One funny workshop we took included decorating bananas and as weird as that may sound, it was a lot of fun. It showed how everyone expresses themselves in different ways, their creativeness, and how even though there was a table full of crafts we could use, there was a similarity between many of the bananas. Just like us girls.
Sophia’s banana is the one on the left, and mine is on the right.
I became friends with several girls that proved to me that although all of us were from a different city, state, or country we all had a common goal and interest: speaking up and helping women worldwide.
The third day was held on Capitol Hill. The large group of nearly 300 girls split up into smaller groups based on the state they are from. My group was composed of four girls from South Carolina, two from Georgia, and one from Saudi Arabia. Fully prepared and educated on our cause, we were escorted to Capitol Hill as teen lobbyists. We spoke to the staff of South Carolina representative Mick Mulvaney, Senator Lindsey Graham, Senator Tim Scott, and the staff of Georgia representative Tom Price. They were proud to see young women standing up and being a voice for others.
I was very nervous when I found out days before the summit that I would be speaking on Capitol Hill about a topic that I was hardly familiar with. The experiences, women activists, activities, and tours helped me to become more aware of what’s happening in other countries and also showed me that although I am a teenage girl, my voice matters. I can make a difference not only in America but also around the world.
After the Summit, Sophia and I decided that we will proudly be starting a Girl Up Club at our high school this school year and hopefully will return to Washington D.C. and Capitol Hill to lobby and be the change.