Saturday, February 24, 2007

Global Leadership for Girls

Girls Scouts of the USA and Americans for Informed Democracy teamed up for a video conference for girls entitled “Women and Global Leadership” today to celebrate the beginning of the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women and Girl Scout’s World Thinking Day. Girls in five cities heard presentations from the following five high profile women leaders and posed questions through a Q and A:

- Jacqueline Novogratz, Chief Executive Officer, Acumen Fund
- Carole Artigiani, Founder and Executive Director, Global Kids
- Kim Hamilton, President Emeritus, NetAid
- Raghida Dergham, Senior Diplomatic Correspondent, Al Hayat
- Minna Mattero, Children and Youth Unit, World Bank

After a lengthy introduction (which was fascinating for me, but you could see some serious fidgeting on the girls’ parts on the video), the girls, who looked to range in age from about 10 – 18, in San Francisco, Chicago, Washington DC, New York, the UK, each had a chance to pose a question to the panel. Here’s what they wanted to know:

San Francisco: What is it like to have a woman president?
(This was for Minna, who hails from Finland, where their female president was just reelected.)
Chicago: How did you get interested in your fields of work?
Washington D.C.: As a mother, what qualities do you bring to your leadership positions/What did you learn from your own mother?
UK: What are your favorite and least favorite parts of being a leader?
New York: What small steps can a high school student take to make a difference, while still getting all my homework done?

All the panelists get major points for not watering down their messages or sugar coating life leading an organization or in Raghida’s case covering world events. They described both what’s lonely and difficult about having to make hard or unpopular decisions, and they also talked about the thrill of seeing the effects of your projects in the world. Better yet, each was positive about the contributions girls and young women can make now while they are young and cited what they learn from young people. I was impressed that they had so much to offer and were clear and demonstrative about their respect for young people and their contributions. Too often, young people are told that they are the “leaders of the future” but here the message was clear—girls are leaders today.

My favorite illustration of this came from Raghida who talked about getting her first short stories and poems published as a 15 year old growing up in Beirut, when as a girl she wasn’t allowed to walk around her neighborhood without a family escort. Later as an adult becoming a foreign correspondent, she called around to get work—new employers remembered her work as a teenager and it helped her land new gigs!

And Minna shared with the girls that they are leaders, of their own lives. In so many parts of the world, girls and women’s lives are determined by men or political circumstances. They are told when and if they can go to school, to work, or to the bathroom. In the states, most girls do have choices.

Congrats to the Girl Scouts and AID for giving girls access to such important women leaders.

1 comment:

Leighann Lord said...

Cool Patti!