23 October 2019 - Peru, United States

Girls can achieve great things

States must invest in children because that investment will benefit the country, and to do it the right way, girls and civil society must be at the heart of this process.

My name is Keren and I live in the district of Villa El Salvador in Lima, Peru. I am in my fourth year of high school at the Jesús de Nazaret school. This week I had the opportunity to travel to New York to present how we work on the participatory budget and the importance of investment in children in the framework of the United Nations activities for the International Day of the Girl. This experience was very good for me, I feel much stronger and I have learned a lot. The most important thing was to show that girls can do great things.

In my country, each school has its student organization, called the School Council. Each year, seven students are democratically elected as representatives of all the students of the school, with the School Mayor as the main authority.

Being a School Mayor changed my life, mainly my view about certain topics. That experience has allowed me to develop leadership, make assertive decisions, implement democratic practices in my school and provide well-being to those we represent, without thinking of our individual interests. In my country and in many others, this is what we need: leaders and authorities who work for the welfare of those they represent.

Adults often think adolescents are not able to bring solutions to the problems. The School Council has shown that we can, and that we are authorities capable of solving different problems that affect our classmates, and at the same time we contribute to the empowerment of good citizens.

We are aware that to solve problems we need funds. The School Council has taken advantage of the participatory budgets of the local government, which provides resources to carry out projects presented by students, organized through their School Council.

Participatory budgeting is a way in which the community proposes its initiatives to meet needs, and the proposals to solve a problem. This mechanism implies competing with proposals from other School Councils as resources are short and must be prioritized. Our greatest achievement is to have won that budget three consecutive times.

During this trip to New York, I´ve met the Ambassador of the Permanent Mission of Guatemala to the United Nations, the Ambassador of the Permanent Mission of Brazil, the Technical Advisor of the Permanent Mission of Peru, the President of the Committee on the Rights of the Child and many other people.

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During the event organized by Save the Children, CEDECA Ceará, Acción por los Niños and EQUIDAD Peru, and other organizations, we presented how this experience improved the lives of children, emphasizing how to invest with the participation of children is not only beneficial for them, but also for the States. I believe that my participation achieved a positive impact on the people who could hear from my experience because the ambassadors congratulated us and encouraged us to continue with this work.

I was also part of a UNICEF and PLAN International panel on how girls are represented in the media with Anxhela, young leader from Albania, Avanti Nagral, pop artist from India and Lisa Russel, film director. I learned a lot from these girls, who are advocating for a better representation of women and girls from their roles.

Another event in which I participated was Bridge the Gap organized by Save the Children, which consisted of crossing the Brooklyn Bridge for the education of girls and I had the opportunity to share with two girls from Albania and Malawi.

Finally, I attended the Girls Speak Out 2019 event in which the situation of girls around the world was shown through a payroll. This event shocked me because I learnt the reality that girls live in other countries. Listening their stories made me empathize with them and I felt their pain and joy. This has left a mark on me and I believe that those experiences that affect girls in other countries have to change.

Now that I'm in my country, I want to get more involved in the School Council activities, continue to participate and provide support to new members in whatever they need. In my school everyone has asked me about the trip, the video in which I participated has also been shared with my classmates, and they are very excited because the video shows our school's badge. Now they are giving much more importance to the School Council and are understanding that if we work together we can achieve many things.

Soon there will be a congress in my community where several schools, including mine, will be invited. My classmates will talk about the achievements of the School Council and they will mention my participation in New York. I will also go to this event to support them. Also, I will participate in a television program with the Minister of Women and Vulnerable Populations of Peru and we will discuss the problems that affect children in my district, such as violence and insecurity.

I will never forget this experience because it strengthened my leadership and taken it to the next level. I have gone from representing my friends, and my school, to representing the voice of children in Peru.

I would like that you could put yourself in the place of the girls for a moment; we have many more barriers than boys to access leadership positions, imagine now being an indigenous girl living in a rural area, for them it is much more difficult to exercise their right to participate and raise their voice.

Investing in girls, and involving girls on decisionmaking processes, will not only make more girls feel included and motivate them to participate, but also they will work for the well-being of their communities. The girls and boys are the future, we will be the citizens of tomorrow and we will be the ones who will make the decisions in a few years. States must invest in children because that investment will benefit the country, and to do it the right way, girls and civil society must be at the heart of this process.

We stand side by side with children in the world's toughest places.