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Column: My experience at the Girl Up Leadership Summit

The online platform for the event allowed participants to “visit” booths, leave messages for other participants, access the help desk, chat with other people, view the schedules and more. (Image courtesy of Girl Up)

“We need to talk.”

A bold declaration challenging women and girls across the world to discuss modern-day issues and step up to new challenges, those four defiant words were the theme of this year’s leadership summit, hosted by Girl Up.

Girl Up is an organization by the United Nations that aims to empower girls in America. As a part of their ongoing campaign, the organization hosted a three-day online leadership summit for girls, open to anyone who signed up.

The summit took place from July 13 to 15, starting at 7 a.m. and lasting until 7:30 p.m. with a few breaks in between. With thousands of participants from almost every country, as well as renowned guest speakers and informational workshops, the event was a huge success.

The first two days of the summit featured seminars where guest speakers and panels were invited to speak on important matters and lead discussions. A few of the more memorable names include Michelle Obama, Meghan Markle, Hillary Clinton, Sheryl Sandberg, Sonya Deville, Priyanka Chopra and Stephen Curry, who all gave short, inspirational speeches on topics such as the need for more women leaders and the youth of today.

Most of these seminars lasted between an hour and a half to three hours and consisted of several speeches and discussions.

The panel discussions featured various women leaders from across the world who were founders of organizations, authors, CEOs or activists, just to name a few. They ranged across various themes and topics, like the intersection between feminism and activism, racism, gender, the LGBTQ+ community or even women’s roles in issues such as climate change, the current youth or poverty.

Each discussion addressed a different angle that was a variation of the overarching theme of women. I was so inspired by everyone who spoke because they demonstrated so much passion for their respective topics.

One thing I especially appreciated was the diversity in all of the panel participants.

There were people of all different races, genders, ages, political opinions, ethnic backgrounds, experiences, careers and interests. Within every session, I always noticed the representation incorporated into the panels, and the new perspectives consistently held my interest.

As a follow-up to the seminars, hour-long workshops were offered to the participants with six different options to choose from. These workshops ranged from lessons on how women could run for leadership positions to features of women in business and sports, providing informational sessions that introduced viewers to the specific topic.

On the first day, I attended a self-defense class and a college workshop, and on the second day, a session about sharing messages through art, as well as how to bring activism online. The workshops taught me how to apply what I gained from the seminars into my work and daily life, providing pragmatic and useful ways to elevate my own voice.

Overall, I was incredibly inspired by the summit, and after every session ended, I always got an “I can do anything” kind of feeling from what I had experienced that day.

I was amazed by all of the women leaders who demonstrated so much zeal and dedication for the topics they cared about, even at such a stand-still time, and I felt inclined as a teenage girl to do the same. 

The seminars have been recorded and uploaded to the Girl Up channel on Youtube, so anyone can still access them now. The Girl Up leadership summit was a worthwhile and empowering experience, and I would highly encourage everyone to watch the seminars and attend in the coming years.

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