“The future is struggling to be born...we have to make room for it.” In the closing session at the Clinton Global Initiative Conference 2011, President Clinton urged the audience to take a stance and better our future.
This past week I attended the conference as a teen reporter for Girl Up, a campaign of the United Nations Foundation.As the only teen there, I was able to hear first hand about the pressing issues facing our world and what governments, NGOs and individuals are doing to help find solutions.
I believe it is important to have teen representation, so that we can speak out against injustices, stand up for others, and give leaders the view of the world from the teen perspective.
The Clinton Global Initiative is unique because it brings together members from the private sector, public sector, and civil society as opposed to conferences for only government officials or business people.
Therefore, we have a large group of people not just discussing the problems at hand, but actually doing something about it.
Through the course of the conference, I met so many people and heard many intriguing conversations of how leaders are working to solve some of the world’s most pressing issues such as climate change, the job market, and girls and women’s rights.
However, these are FIVE of what I think are the most important topics and ideas I learned about and how it affects us as teens, and most importantly, as the future generation.
1. Get the Facts: Did you know that half of the world’s 143 million out-of-school youth are girls? Or that one in seven girls in the developing world marries before the age of 15? Most of these statistics shock teens when they find out, which should not be the case.
From all the panel discussions and people I interviewed, it seems that the first step and best way to get involved is to know the facts, recognize that there is a problem, and spread the information.
At the opening session at CGI, President Clinton said that many Americans think we are giving 20-30 percent of our budget to foreign aid, but think we should cut down giving to 3-5 percent.
In reality, we are only investing less than 1 percent to foreign aid. This shows how many Americans are misinformed and must first understand the full gravity of the problems.
This led me to think back to how shocked I was when I first found out about the tremendous obstacles girls and women around the world face.
We live in a time where all the knowledge in the world is literally located at our fingertips, yet we don’t know some of the most pressing issues of our world because our minds are not programmed to think so globally.
As a result of attending CGI, I think high schools should have a global health and policy class to discuss and familiarize students with what is happening in the world outside our bubble.
We are inheriting this world and we need to understand what is going on and be able to have input. Not to mention, teens are often the world’s best problem solvers.
2. Girls NOT Brides: On day two, I attended a press conference on a new global partnership to end child marriage. It was at the conference when I realized two things — child marriage is the underlying barrier that prevents girls from reaching their dreams and potential, and that I have to use my voice simply because I have one.
I realized that girls’ opportunities for a successful life screech to a halt when she is married off as an adolescent, yet 10 million girls are forcibly married every year. Do you see the problem? The pattern looks a little something like this:
A girl gets pulled out of school as early as 10 years old. She cannot go to school and receive an education. She does not have the opportunity to get a job. She gets pregnant by the age of 19 and is 3x more likely to contract HIV/AIDS than boys. She dies early and the cycle continues.
3. Cellphones — the World’s Lifelines: Did you know that teens one average send more than a 100 text messages a day? Cell phones are no longer a gadget for the privileged, but are prevalent across the world.
One of the panelists today recalled seeing more cell phones in India than toilets. Cell phones are transforming the lives of so many in under developed countries, especially women and children.
In some cases, women are able to call doctors when they give birth or can use it to find resources, yet as the technological era moves forward, the basic necessities of people in underdeveloped countries are decreasing.
Technology and social media help level the playing field, not just connect, spread, and obtain information, and is also one of the most valued items of underprivileged people.
4. Millennium what? "We are in the age of participation. It is inevitable,” President Clinton.
The Millennium Development Goals were adopted by 189 world leaders from rich and poor countries, as part of the Millennium Declaration which was signed in 2000, (http://www.endpoverty2015.org) leaders agreed to accomplish these goals by 2015 and be the generation to end poverty.
Before this conference, I had heard the term but never really understood what this involved. I think it is important for teens to understand these goals and how our world’s leaders are working towards achieving them.
The 8 goals are:
I think it is particularly interesting that six of the eight Millennium Development Goals have to do with women and girls!
5. Power of Collaboration: “When you stand out in a crowd, it is because you are standing on the shoulders of others.” (Desmond Tutu) I learned something that affects all teens no matter where you’re from or what your hopes and dreams are for the future and that is the power of a group and of collaboration.
We cannot begin to accomplish our goals or create change in the world without first understanding the qualities of leadership and the power of teamwork.
Throughout the conference I heard so many distinguished politicians and CEOs of companies emphasize the importance of working collectively towards change.
It is okay for all of us to have different passions and different ways of approaching a problem, but the key is to figure out how to combine these ideas and work together, not against each other.
We as teens experience this same type of thing on a daily basis, but this basic concept can help solve the world’s problems.
Girl Up BFF