G(irls) 20 Summit Bringing Women’s Issues To The Global Table

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We’ve all heard the phrases “it’s a man’s world” or “the boys club” and winced a little right? Instead of cowering in fear, a generation of girls around the world is rising up to take on the old traditions and make the world a place for women, just as much as men.

Ahead of the annual G20 Summit which will take place in Australia in November, where leaders from all over the world will converge in Brisbane to discuss how they can tackle economic growth, a group of 24 girls from various countries represented at the summit have held their own version of the important event on August 25th and 26th to discuss and present ways that women and girls play a crucial part in stimulating economic growth worldwide. It is called the G(irls) 20 Summit, which was launched 5 years ago by a former political adviser turned social entrepreneur Farah Mohamed.

The G20 started in 1999 as a meeting of Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors in the aftermath of the Asian financial crisis. In 2008, the first G20 Leaders Summit was held, and the group played a key role in responding to the global financial crisis.

The summit includes representatives from 19 individual countries—Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States—and the European Union (EU). Collectively, the G-20 economies account for around 85% of the gross world product (GWP), 80% of world trade (or if excluding EU intra-trade: 75%), and two-thirds of the world population.

The slogan for the G(irls) 2o is “3.5 Billion ways to change the world” (indicating the number of females on the planet) and the girls, picked from an initial pool of 1200 candidates, came together for two days to come up with ideas they can present to the leaders who will be present at the G20 Summit in November and show them why empowering women and girls economically is a major part of stimulating growth.

Farah Mohamed, president and CEO of the G(irls)20 Summit, believes that only by tapping the potential of women and girls can the G20 expect to reach its ambitious growth target.

“If we don’t invest in young girls and women along the way so they can join innovative industries, and flourish in those areas, how are you going to get there?” she told Women’s Agenda. “There are certain things you need to do to ensure women not just enter but stay in the workforce. This strategic investment leads to growth, growth leads to job, and jobs lead to increased taxes.”

She believes the summit should be much more than just a conversation, but an opportunity to seriously influence change. “We have enough information now, we need the action. The best people who can make that action are the G20 leaders,” she said.

“It’s only been in the last two years that we’ve seen leaders pay attention to the role of women,” she told the Washington Post. “And now it’s been put on the agenda. So now we’re saying, ‘Okay, you’ve identified it as an issue, let’s see some action. We want to see some tools.’”

Farah goes on to say that entrepreneurship is something that comes naturally to women.

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“We see a problem and find a solution. You apply that to business, and it means you’re finding new products and solutions. It allows women to truly maximize their strengths and help to leverage change.”

And although this Summit specifically invites ‘girls’ from around the world, she’s determined to include boys and men in the process. “I don’t believe you empower a woman by disempowering a man.” In fact, a quick look on the G(irls) 20 Summit Youtube channel shows they are engaging fathers to empower their daughters and have enlisted some well-known names including former first daughter Chelsea Clinton,  entrepreneur Richard Branson, singer Shakira and Malala’s father Ziauddin Yousafzai who certainly lives out the concept of empowering his daughter.

This year, the girls are addressing the dearth of youth employment opportunities worldwide and the effects of women’s entrepreneurial spirit on global agriculture. Each country represented by the candidates has their own issue that they are focused on, some which include misogyny toward women which prevents them from progressing in a number of sectors. The younger generation of girls are coming up with ways to break those barriers and empower women.

Here are the solutions the 2014 G(irls) 20 Summit delegates came up with for their respective countries and for the G20 leaders to take into consideration in November:

“You know the ‘old boys club?’” Farah says. “These girls are ‘the new girls club.’ If I’d had access to this when I was 18 or 19, it would’ve blown my mind. I view leadership as not just an official position but an attitude, an approach to life. One of my strengths, I feel, is fortitude. I personally have faced many issues for being a girl and had to struggle a lot … so delegates from those countries may have had similar experiences as I’ve had.”

This year’s G(irls) 2o Summit saw delegates from Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA) for he first time.

“It’s really important to have those voices at the table for two reasons. One, when you’re having conversations about these countries, we need delegates from those countries. Two, a lot has happened there — we could use best practices. Rather than do this for them, we want to do this with them,” says Farah Mohamed.

The organization is actively bridging the gap between generations and genders when it comes to matters of economic growth and why empowering women is a crucial part. Many studies show that when a woman is financially stable, she helps not only herself and her family, but also her community and the money she makes is far reaching.

We love that Farah has taken action and created a solution for women’s voices to be heard. Often older generations are too scared to speak up because of cultural traditions that have held them bound for too long. Engaging the youth is a smart and effective way of getting the attention of the world’s leaders, who can longer say they aren’t aware of women’s issues.

Here is a helpful infograph G(irls) 20 put together to share more information about what they are doing, and why:

 

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