ADVOCATING FOR GIRLS’ EDUCATION AND EMPOWERMENT
I’m Anxhela, 16 years old from North-East Albania, one of the poorest areas where poverty and unemployment dominate. I’m a student in 12 grade, a storyteller, a painter and an advocate for children and specifically girls’ rights.
In my country children make up over 35% of the population and over 20% of them live in absolute poverty. Poverty is a widespread and rising phenomenon that affects children’s success and progress in school. As per the ‘Young Voice’ Albania 2017 report, 83.3% of children consider poverty, exclusion, and disability as areas of particular concern.
Violence against children is widespread and is used as a way of disciplining children. Children lack opportunities to participate in decision making processes and their interests are frequently disregarded in school and community. Many girls are victims of violence, discrimination and are enforced or convinced to get married at early age, due to tradition and lack of support to follow education.
I think that the most important thing for girls to overcome barriers is to get educated, equip with knowledge and skills and empower to speak up for the realization of their rights. When girls overcome barriers and empower, they are able to lead, influence and inspire the world for a better life for all.
These were some of my views and messages I shared and conveyed through my participation and remarks held during the International Day of Girl events in New York and Washington DC. I was invited by Save the Children to bring the voice of girls from Albania and around the world and advocate for their rights and wellbeing.
For more than a week, I had the opportunity to meet with girls and young women, listened to their life stories and empowerment journey. I was impressed how many things we have in common as regards barriers and struggles as well as the will and commitment to bring about a change and make the world better for all.
My visit in US was the first one for me abroad and most impressive and inspiring ever. I felt happy, important, supported, motivated and very responsible to do my best for promoting girls’ voice and rights.
A special part of my advocacy mission in US, was also meeting with two other wonderful girls - Cecilia from Malawi and Keren from Peru. Being together, sharing feelings and experiences, going around and taking photos as well, I felt better and stronger. I have so much to talk about my US visit – it was an experience of my life that I will never forget.
The two main events I went to were - ‘Girls Speak Out’ event at UN Assembly and 'Bridge the gap for Girls’ in NY. 'Bridge the gap for Girls’ was one of the big events by Save the Children where I had the opportunity to meet a lot of amazing people including Gina Torres, a famous actor. On that day I raised my voice and bridged the gaps for girls’ protection. That day, Cecilia, Keren and I led the walk across the Brooklyn Bridge and hundreds of people joined us in that walk. It was such an empowerment and wonderful feeling. That day, I felt more energetic, optimistic and motivated to continue my fight for girls’ rights and empowerment that can lead them to a better life and future.
In Washington DC, I had some other important meetings with members of Congress and had the opportunity to speak with influential women and men who are vocal and supportive to girls’ rights.
The last event I attended and spoke at was hosted by the World Bank Group -- “Learning Poverty”. I participated in a Facebook Live interview on the importance of leadership by girls and children at school and community levels. In the meeting I was a special speaker invitee and was part of a very important panel with Word Bank Group President David Malpass, Save the Children UK CEO Kevin Watkins, Vice President of Human Development of WBG Annette Dixon, Ghana Senior Minister, Morocco Minister of Economy and Mayor of Sobral, Brasil and the moderator Kaya Henderson, former Chancellor of DC schools.
At the beginning of my speech, I felt a bit nervous but soon after I was able to control my emotions and gave my remarks that received a lot of applause. Through my remarks I highlighted that:
Children and youth are the future. When we are educated, we are the ones who can make change and make the world better”.
Now I can say that as a girl and child activist, I am happy to have had the opportunity to raise my voice and advocate for girls and children rights globally. This trip was a new experience for me. I learned new knowledge and gained new skills. Now I feel much more empowered, confident and motivated to go on with my advocacy and inspire my peers to follow education and speak out for their issues and realization of their rights.