Youth Champion Karina Jougla with Khalida Brohi, an adovcate for girls' education in Pakistan.
The Women in the World Summit is certainly a star-studded event -- from Meryl Streep, Angelina Jolie, and Eva Longoria to Oprah, Susan Rice, and Hillary Clinton among many others. For me, the stars who shone brightest were the young women from all over the world who have educated themselves in order to educate their countrywomen.
In one panel, three courageous Pakistani women spoke about their efforts to promote girls' education in their country. When asked about the threats on their lives that they face from groups such as the Taliban who have targeted girls' rights activists like Malala, Khalida Brohi answered, "Not doing this work would kill me; doing this work will keep me alive." At 24 years old, Khalida has a unique story. Her mother was married to her father when she was 9 years old and had Khlida by age 14. Her father went off to boarding school for several years, and he concluded that he wanted to marry an educated woman. Then he remembered his young wife back home and decided to give her an education. When he realized how intelligent she was, they fell in love. Because Khalida's father had valued educating women, Khalida and her sister were the only two girls to go to school in their village. Khalida started an organization called the Sughar Women Program to economically empower women by selling the intricately embroidered handbags they make. Khalida explained that "sughar" is a term used to describe a small handful of women who are skilled and confident, and she believes that all Pakistani women are sughar. Khalida is a true force of nature, but she is still just humble and approachable girl. When I met her and told her that I was writing a blog featuring her for Girl Up, she beamed and exclaimed with glee, "Oh my gosh I could scream!"
I was lucky enough to meet another phenomenal young woman named Phiona from Uganda. She was taken out of school at the age of five so that she could sell corn to help support her family, until one day she came to a youth chess program to get a free cup of porridge. As it turns out, Phiona had a rare talent for playing chess, and now she's competing internationally. Phiona, like Khalida, exudes humility and quiet brilliance. When I asked her what she would say to girls everywhere if she had a worldwide microphone, she thought for a moment before giving me the message she has for all of us: "to be hard working, to have patience, and to have hope."
It is a beautiful thing to see so many examples of successful women, but as Hillary Clinton told the audience, we still have a lot of work to do to achieve the "unfinished business" of making gender equality a reality in the world. Having the honor of listening to the stories of all the women at the Women in the World summit has convinced me more than ever that together, we can accomplish this unfinished business not only for future generations, but for this generation of girls and women.