Interview by Megan Foo
Rachelle Ng is a high school senior at the International Christian School in Hong Kong. Passionate about gender equality, education for all, and women’s empowerment, Rachelle is one of the student leaders of GIN852, a Global Issues Network conference based in Hong Kong that stresses on sustainable planning, immediate action, and solving issues rooted in Hong Kong.
Women LEAD: What is your background?
Rachelle Ng: I was born in Hong Kong and studied here at an English school until fifth grade. In 2008, I moved to New Jersey, U.S.A. There, I was in an American public middle school for three years. When my family relocated back to Hong Kong, I joined International Christian School at Shek Mun, Hong Kong.
Women LEAD: You are a student leader of GIN852, a Hong Kong-based Global Issues Network Conference that aims to raise awareness of and solve social and environmental challenges rooted in Hong Kong. Can you tell us about GIN852 and its emphasis on sustainable planning and immediate action?
Rachelle Ng: The GIN852 Conference was started by Chinese International School in 2012. The students at CIS took the idea of the international Global Issues Network conference around the world, where students around the world convene to discuss about various global issues, and brought it to the local setting of Hong Kong. The GIN852 Conference focuses on how the 20 global issues can be applied to the unique city Hong Kong and be combated locally. This year, the second Global Issues Conference held at International Christian School has the conference theme of “sustainable planning, immediate action.” The GIN852 organizing committee strives to incorporate this theme by prolonging the process of the conference, instilling the habit of long term planning. For the first time, the GIN852 pre-conference has been created to allow school leaders to meet prior to the conference and initiate conversations. Also, in the spirit of immediate action, the organizing committee has invited inspiring local speakers and various NGOs in Hong Kong, inspiring students to at upon urgent issues and giving student the platform to get involved.
Women LEAD: What other service projects have you been involved with, whether in school or out of school?
Rachelle Ng: There have been two major service projects that I’ve been a part of. After I attended a GIN conference at Jakarta in 2011, I learned about Project Love, a fundraising project that Shanghai American School started to gather funds for AIDS orphans in China. Inspired to spread the impact and good cause of this project, I began Project Love at ICS. Project Love was a charity sale of T-shirt designed by students. The proceeds of these T-shirts were donated to Chi Heng Foundation and used towards the holistic development and education of AIDS orphans. Another service I started in my junior year was the Joyful Bunch. In Hong Kong, there are many special needs children that the public education system fails to fully cater the needs for. One example of this is illustrated in the Elaine Field Handicapped School at Tai Po. Some of the students at the school live in the dormitories and require constant care. However, the limited amount of staff members cannot fully attend to these children and provide social interaction with these children. As a result, the Joyful Bunch, formed as a tutoring group, hopes to be friends to these students. We visit the Elaine Field School regularly to help the students with homework; we also introduce them to new playing toys.
Women LEAD: Why are girls’ education and women’s leadership important to you?
Rachelle Ng: Avid about education for all, I believe education is a basic right to all, every single child, regardless of gender and race. Yet, the cruel fact is that girls are often deprived of education. Therefore, I believe it is only fair for girls to receive an education, which enables them to think and act independently. In fact, Education for girl is the key agent of change to a better society. It has been proven that educating girls solves many societal problems, including poverty and diseases. We, as fellow girls, must take up the responsibility to speak for those who are kept silent.
Women LEAD: What would you say are the biggest challenges to improving access to education among girls? What does leveraging the power, innovation and energy of youth mean to you?
Rachelle Ng: The biggest challenges to improving access to education among girls are the gender roles perpetuated in traditional cultures. Families often expect their daughters to marry well and nurture their children, relegating them to domestic roles. Education is seemed as unnecessary for girls. I see the shift in these biased perspectives as the first step to improving education among girls. When a family decides to support and fund a girl’s education, the family gives her the power of knowledge and of choice. There have been encouraging movements of increasing significance placed among girls’ education but the situations of child marriage and women trafficking remain severe in many traditional societies. Youth need to form the group that takes leadership in this movement for girls’ education because we hold the power of global communication. The old barriers to cross cultural influences gradually diminish; youth of our day with their unique international mindsets and innovative energy will determine whether these disparities and divides in education will be resolved in the coming decades.
Women LEAD: What would you say are the biggest challenges to ending gender-based discrimination / gender inequality worldwide?
Rachelle Ng: Again, I will have to say that the biggest challenges to ending gender-based discrimination are the deeply rooted doctrines of prejudice within society. In the more traditional societies, these prejudices lie in the most basic rights — liberty, education and worth. In the more modernized societies, these prejudices lie in subtle discrepancies — work value, appearances, and family roles. I believe the many years of accumulated doctrines regarding genders present obstacles to achieving gender equality.
Women LEAD: Are there any websites and books that are inspiring you right now related to the theme of gender equality, women’s empowerment and education?
Rachelle Ng: One of my favorite sources about women’s empowerment and education is the movie Girl Rising. This movie features the story of nine girls across the world who display amazing courage to stand up for their rights. The movie showcases the various situations girls are placed in globally. I found the movie extremely inspirational and powerful to encourage girls to rise up. Another great book I recommend is Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis. A single mother of fourteen adopted girls in Uganda, Katie humbly narrates her remarkable experiences in Uganda, motivating me to serve so selflessly others.