Imagine being on the forefront of change. Imagine being able to have your voice heard. Imagine standing up for a cause you believe in and making a difference.
For four local Girl Scouts, this was a reality. During the week of March 11-18, Mariel Boden, Nina Grotto, Laila Kassar and Eva Lewis represented Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana at the United Nations’ 60th Commission on the Status of Women in New York City and joined thousands of delegates from around the world.
“The trip was truly amazing,” said Laila, an 18-year-old Girl Scout Ambassador. “I learned a lot about all the different types of feminism and other things related to it.”
The theme of this year’s two-week commission was the link between sustainable development and women’s empowerment, as well as preventing and ending all acts of violence against women and girls.
The delegates attended various discussions about these topics and two of the Girl Scouts – Mariel and Eva – were able to participate in panels, such as “Girls at the Table,” about girl activists and their efforts to address local challenges within the context of sustainable development goals.
“Speaking at the Girls at the Table event made me realize the power I have, as well as the impact of my voice, even though I’m only 17 years old. There were many important people in the room and a few walked up to me afterward to convey their reactions to to my speech and answers to my questions,” said Eva, a Girl Scout Ambassador.
“I left the panel feeling so much positive energy from the audience as well as the other incredible girls I shared the panel with. I spoke at the United Nations,” she continued. “And that’s such a blessing in itself. The experience only validated my efforts and affirmed that I can only go up from here.”
Laila was also inspired by the panelists.
“One of the girls on the panel had a project where she taught self-defense to girls in India so they’d be better able to defend themselves,” she said. “Her advice was to start with six people, then 60, then 600, then 6,000 and so on to make a big difference. It inspired me to start thinking doing my Gold Award project to help Syrian refugees.”
Nina was particularly touched about a panel regarding violence against women in Ireland.
“It was my favorite because they didn’t just have ideas about how to prevent violence, but they’d implemented a program they’re using with other countries and communities to change the culture around domestic violence,” said Nina, a 17-year-old Girl Scout Ambassador.
And she can’t wait to share what she learned with her classmates and other Girl Scouts.
“I want other girls to know that even though you’re still young, what you have to say is important and you can still be advocates,” said Nina. “The issues and problems you’re facing are valid and there are people in the government who care about your problems and are working to fix them. If you want things to change, you have the power to advocate for yourself, your friends and your community.”
For more information about programs available to Older Girls, please visit gsgcnwi.org.