Sec. of State Hillary Clinton and President Bill Clinton address the crowd at the Clinton Global Initiative.
New York City is “the city that never sleeps,” but these few days have been particularly hectic, in a positive way.
Dignitaries and diplomats are filling the city, working to make change. With the UN Assembly, the Clinton Global Initiative, and the Social Good Summit going on at once, you can see the effort that so many important figures are putting into bettering our country and the world. It is inspiring to see and feel this hope in the city.
My day began at the Clinton Global Initiative, with an address from the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. After a standing ovation, Hillary Clinton spoke of innovation, and how she is hoping to redefine diplomacy. She spoke of her hope to create a catalyst for a self-sustainable system and to change the way the United States helps other countries by “not just providing aid, but making strategic investments.” Finally she concluded with something we are all guaranteed as outlined by the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights: dignity. Secretary Clinton outlined the United States goals of combating extremists and standing together to defend freedom and human dignity, saying that we are all called to participate.
After the plenary, I saw a panel entitled “The Early Years: An Irresistible Investment Opportunity.” This panel really tied in with Girl Up’s goals: to help girls from the beginning; not to provide them with aid after something catastrophic has happened, but to prevent the catastrophe from the start. There is what is called the “1,000 day window.” These are the 1,000 days from pregnancy until around the time a child is 2 years old. It is at this time where their brains and bodies are being formed. If children are malnourished during this time, it will affect them for the rest of their lifetime, their growth is stunted, and it is irreversible. As Jay Naidoo, Chairman of the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), said, if one does not take action by the time the child is two years old then “you’ve missed the boat.” Even if that child’s family wins the lottery, they cannot make up for what was lost. This panel restated what Secretary Clinton said earlier in the day, the notion of “investment” - investing in the children, in the girls, so that they can be the decision makers of the future. As Geeta Rao Gupta, Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF said, “We don’t just want children to survive, we want them to thrive.”
Later I had the great joy of seeing my fellow Teen Advisor and friend Sofia Stafford on a panel at the Social Good Summit. It was great to see Girl Up represented, especially on such a large and distinguished platform, and by such a wonderful speaker. You can read about Sofia’s experience here.
The day concluded at a reception for the documentary, “Half the Sky.” Based on the book written by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, the documentary premiering October 1 will shed light on the oppression millions of women and girls face daily in many regions of the world. The event featured a panel of distinguished leaders, as well as those who had worked directly on or were featured in the film. There was no glossing over the details, and the clips from the documentary really made it all more personal; it was impactful actually seeing the people versus reading about them. If there was one recurrent idea throughout the night, it was that both the film and the book were not meant to pity these girls, they were meant to move others to make a difference. To no longer sit idly by, but to volunteer, donate, or do whatever is available to one. Many of these girls have lived through unimaginable circumstances, from sexual abuse at a young age, malnourishment, etc., but they all seem to still have aspirations, and a desire to better themselves.
In one of the clips from the film a mother is speaking about why she allows her daughter to go to school, and she says that she did not want her daughter to be poor, as her family was then. Her daughter has a two hour commute to and from school, but that does not faze her, and she is at the top of her class. In a community where, as one citizen said, 10 girls are still worth less than one boy, this young girl was educating herself. Not because she had to, but because she wanted to. As Jay Naidoo said earlier in the day, "If you want to make an investment that impacts development most, you invest in your children." If a girl has an education and is healthy and safe, basic needs everyone deserves, then she can certainly thrive. After that, there are no bounds to what she can achieve.
For more from the Clinton Global Initiative follow me on twitter @InesRenique.