Hello! My name is Anna Silk, and I am a high school junior at Marlborough School in Los Angeles. I’m a member of the Women LEAD Team in Los Angeles. One of my passions includes promoting girls’ rights and leadership opportunities on a local and international level. With my blog posts, I aim to shed light on women leaders in my community, as well as focus on media coverage of support for girls’ rights around the world.
This week, I interviewed a fellow student at my school, a freshman named Annie, who is a former Teen Advisor and current Co-Chair of the Teen Advisory Board at GirlUp. GirlUp is an organization associated with the United Nations which seeks to spread awareness about the lack of girls’ rights worldwide and offers programs for young women to help take action in bringing about change. A couple of years ago, GirlUp visited the Marlborough campus for an exciting event: a GirlUp Pep Rally. There were numerous booths presenting the various struggles and challenges girls around the world face on a daily basis; one booth had examples of the heavy water jugs girls in other parts of the world have to carry to and from wells and rivers every day. Her Majesty Queen Rania of Jordan attended the event and other celebrities came as well, among them the singer David Archuleta, Olympic swimmer Rebecca Soni, and actress Monique Coleman.
Annie cites this Pep Rally as initially piquing her interest in GirlUp. She said she was inspired by the speeches given at the event, and how learning that 1 in 7 girls are married before they are even fifteen made an impression on her. She says, “I was really appalled by the fact that there were girls my age with the same exact dreams as me, who wanted to grow up to be doctors or lawyers, but weren’t able to accomplish these things simply because of where they were born.” Soon after the rally, Annie decided that she wanted to become involved with the organization. Thinking it was interesting that GirlUp was supported by Teen Advisors, she applied to become one in 2011 and was accepted. This year, she is now the Co-Chair for the Teen Advisory Board. “As a Teen Advisor, you basically serve as the face of the campaign in your own community, so they give you different media opportunities, speaking opportunities, content creation, etc. which allows you to take on a huge leadership role,” Annie says about her duties as an Advisor, adding that “you are a living model of the GirlUp motto, ‘For Girls, By Girls’.”
Annie has helped lead the organization forward in her community and has exhibited admirable dedication to the cause. She organized a Mother/Daughter Tea and a bake sale to raise funds for GirlUp and has traveled to numerous women’s conferences. Annie says that she talks to the GirlUp staff weekly and also participates in monthly webinars with the rest of the Teen Advisory Board, where they discuss issues and listen to guest speakers. One of the best experiences she has had in being part of the GirlUp campaign is hosting the first-ever GirlUp Leadership Summit in Washington D.C. She describes that it was wonderful, “bonding with the other 15 girls who were Teen Advisors who were also passionate about the same issues that I was”. The rest of the Advisory committee includes girls representing around 15 states in the U.S. who range from 7th-12th grade.
Annie has also traveled extensively for her roles as Teen Advisor and Co-Chair. She has traveled to New York, where she and her Board “got to go to the United Nations Headquarters for International Day of the Girl…we got to hear a panel on Child Marriage which featured U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon as well as Desmond Tutu”. Annie is also the first teen invited to attend a United Nations Foundation Observation Trip, an opportunity where she will possibly visit Malawi in the spring: “It’s one thing to advocate that girls should be able to go to school and fulfill their dreams and raise tons of awareness, but it is another thing to actually see where your money and your hard work is going, so I really hope I get to go”.
When asked about what the most important step right now to take in advancing girls’ rights and education is, Annie replied that “a lot of girls our age would be willing to help out and help spread awareness, but there are many who don’t know that there are girls just like them, girls who are their same age, filled with their same dreams and hopes, but due to the barrier of where they were born, because of the cultural norms, etc. they are unable to go to school and therefore get married, etc.”. She lauds the PBS documentary “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide“, for helping raise awareness about girls’ rights, as well as praising the upcoming 10×10 documentary called Girl Rising, which focuses on the lives of girls in 10 different countries. Annie believes that, “once there is a lot of awareness, more girls can try to advocate on behalf of the government, such as with the Stop Child Marriage Act, which was passed in the Senate but not the House”. She thinks that, “if more girls are educated, I think they’ll take more steps to raise awareness”.
A woman leader that inspires Annie is Hillary Clinton, who has helped girls around the world with different initiatives. Annie commends her for, “her policymaking about clean cook stoves and making sure that in developing countries, women, when they are cooking their food, use clean stoves so that when they lean down to cook, they’re not breathing in all this disgusting air”.
Annie has also helped set up a GirlUp club at Marlborough, which has been focusing its efforts this year on, “spreading awareness rather than raising funds,” which they did last year. The club assisted in planning an All-School Assembly for International Day of the Girl, and they also hold information sessions during their club meetings, discussing such topics as child marriage.
Annie says that her favorite part of the whole experience has been “bonding with all the GirlUp Teen Advisors and learning from all of the staff, who are so knowledgeable because I think it is so amazing to be surrounded by people who are all passionate about educating girls and the impact that we can have”. She adds that, “all the GirlUp staff really believes in the power of teenage girls to help girls”.
My interview with Annie was both informative and interesting; it was inspiring to see how much impact this young woman has brought to her local community in supporting the GirlUp organization.