Five reasons why CGI and UNGA were huge moments for girls

There was something different about CGI and UNGA this year: girls were everywhere.

We sent girl reporters Sifa and Bénigne, from Girl Hub Rwanda's Ni Nyampinga magazine, to the 2013 Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) and UN General Assembly (UNGA) in New York City. Their mission? Tell the world about the Girl Effect. 

Here are their five highlights…

1. Watching Chelsea Clinton preview the Girl Declaration

On Thursday, the Girl Declaration was previewed at CGI ahead of its launch on 1 October. 

Two of Plan International's youth ambassadors - Farwa, from Pakistan, and Yaweta, from Malawi - read out an excerpt from the Girl Declaration. Farwa announced to the crowd afterwards: "If boys can go to school, then girls can also go. If boys can earn money, so can girls. If boys can go to the moon, so can I."

It was great to see the girls on stage with Chelsea Clinton, giving the world its first taste of the Declaration, which will be handed over to the UN on International Day of the Girl (11 October).

This was the climax of a week in which it was clear more and more people are starting to demand that girls' voices are heard on the international stage.

2. Seeing girls from around the world having their say at CGI 

We weren't the only girls in New York this week. Everywhere we went there were girls speaking out about what they want to see in future global plans to end poverty.

We met a girl called Elba, a 16-year-old from Guatemala, at the Girl Declaration breakfast. She was there, like us, as a voice for other girls in her country. She spoke about how girls are capable of anything and why they should be empowered. It was so inspiring that we had tears in our eyes.

To be alongside all these girls in the same room as so many important people was an incredible feeling. 

Girls have arrived on the world stage and can no longer be ignored.

The actress Geena Davis was certainly in agreement when we interviewed her after her appearance at the UN general assembly: "The surest thing that you can invest in is a girl. Because we will get many, many things back."

3. Listening to Bill Clinton's words of wisdom  

One of our favourite quotes of the week came from President Clinton during the opening plenary. "Everyone should have a father like yours," he told Khalida Brohi, a social entrepreneur from Pakistan, after she'd finished a moving story about how her dad taught her to overcome challenges with the phrase: "Don't cry, strategise."

It was a good reminder that the Girl Declaration is about creating a better world for everyone, and that's why it needs everyone - mums, dads and brothers, as well as girls - to support it.

That's why it was also great to hear one of Plan International's male youth ambassadors getting behind it.

"As a boy, it's important to me," said 18-year-old Rafick, from Malawi, "because if my mother had been educated she could have supported us when she was divorced. Because she didn't have her rights, she was not educated and couldn't afford our school fees." 

4. Sharing a podium with Queen Rania and Gordon Brown

It was a real privilege for Bénigne to be recognised as the millionth voter in the My World survey, which is giving everyone around the world a say on how to end poverty. It was also an honour to receive a special award on behalf of Rwanda for the role the country played in ensuring more than 70,000 people from remote areas got the chance to complete My World. 

Queen Rania of Jordan and Gordon Brown (pictured above with Bénigne), former UK prime minister, both attended a My World event and it was really clear when we spoke to them that they took the views of people around the world really seriously. They were both interested in what we voted for.

It shows that if people are given a say, world leaders will listen.

5. Meeting influential people who believe in our potential 

The success of My World shows why the Girl Declaration is so important. If we can make girls' voices heard on the global stage, then world leaders can no longer ignore them.

At the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Countdown event we saw a video about the rapid increase in the number of girls attending school in Pakistan. It showed what can be achieved when leaders take action to promote our needs.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, executive director of UN Women, summed it up perfectly at the MDG event: "The issue of women and girls is the outstanding issue for humanity," she said.

Those thoughts were echoed by Justine Greening from the UK government, who said: "One thing we know is that if we don't make progress on the girls and women agenda, it's hard to make progress on any of the MDGs." 

It's clear that the will is there. This is the moment to make it happen.

The Girl Declaration launched on 1 October. Read it, support it and find out how you can make the world listen to girls such as Sifa and Bénigne.

Find out more about Girl Hub's Ni Nyampinga girls in Rwanda.

About the authors: Bénigne Mugwaneza Ishimwe, 21, and Sifa Mukayuhi, 25, both work on Girl Hub's Ni Nyampinga - a magazine and radio show created for girls, by girls. Bénigne is a reporter, editor and presenter on the radio show. Sifa is a reporter on the magazine.