WD2013 showed why policy makers must invest in girls

Ni Nyampinga journalist Ritha M Clarisse Bumwe says discussions at the Women Deliver conference showed why girls must be a priority for global development

The third Women Deliver conference took place in Kuala Lumpur last month. As a Ni Nyampinga journalist, I was happy to have the opportunity to cover the conference and to see that girls' issues were high on the agenda of the discussions among the 5,000 delegates.

There was a strong focus on the need to empower girls. For example, I had the chance to visit the girl effect's interactive tree, which told the stories of 250 girls from around the world.

"This tree is an effort to try to get people involved in addressing girls' issues and to get girls on to the agenda of the Millennium Development Goals post 2015," said Maria Eitel, president of the Nike Foundation.

I was able to meet with leaders from various organisations and was happy to note that they believe that girls can achieve anything they want if they have the right opportunities.

Chelsea Clinton, from the Clinton Foundation, said: "If you think you can do something, you can do that. If you think you can be a doctor, a lawyer, or an activist, then I think you should do that."

But success cannot be achieved without more investment into girls' education and learning, which will pave the way for them to become good leaders in the future.

"We invest in girls because women and girls are half of the population of the world. So if you want the society to grow, you have to empower [them]," added Barbara Bush, co-founder of Global Health Corps.

I was also fortunate to speak with Emmanuella Manjolo, a 13-year-old girl from Malawi who became famous for her publication 'I will marry, when I want to' as part of her fight against child marriage. She told me that child marriage is still a scourge for Malawian girls, which is why it's important that girls' voices were heard at Women Deliver.

What pleased me most was seeing global leaders coming together to discuss ways to integrate girls into development programmes, with special attention paid to the protection of their health and investment in their education. 

The conference helped to open my mind and made me realise that placing girls and women at the centre of development programmes should not be viewed as a favour but rather as a necessity. Because girls and women are essential to the development of their countries and the world.

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Find out more about Ni Nyampinga's girl journalists

Read more about girl effect's interactive tree

Support the Girl Declaration to make sure girls are a priority for global development