By Monique Coleman
As a Girl Up Champion for the past six years, I’ve continually been amazed by the power and strength of girls around the world. Whether it’s using their voices to raise awareness about issues affecting girls on Capitol Hill, starting clubs in their high schools and colleges, or standing up and demanding gender equality and the same opportunities given to boys and men. On World Refugee Day, I wanted to share why I celebrate the power of girls every day, but especially on this day.
Some of the strongest girls I’ve ever met were in the Aw-barre refugee camp in Jijiga, Ethiopia, where I visited with Girl Up to learn more about their partner programs with UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency. The refugee girls at Aw-barre had already overcome so much – fleeing their homes, starting over in a new country, trying to rebuild their lives often with little resources to do so – but they were still filled with hopes and plans for their future. Girls shared with me that they wanted all of the same things that girls everywhere want – education, safe spaces to meet with friends, and simple things like textbooks or a new basketball court to play after school.
One of the girls that stood out on our trip was Fautima, who was 16 at the time we met. She was very mature and a natural-born leader. She spoke five languages and helped translate so that other girls in her class could clearly state their thoughts and opinions. We all read Girl Up’s Girlafesto together and we all laughed at the end, because the words ring true in every culture.
Fautima, and the many girls like her I met in Ethiopia, don’t just want to improve the lives of girls in their school or neighborhood. They want to become leaders in their communities so that they can make sure future generations of girls and refugees have the opportunity to go to school, be safe and healthy, and pursue their dreams. Their inner joy and love was contagious and it’s one of the things I see over and over again in my work with Girl Up year after year. Because I know that if your drive and passion for change comes from a joyful and loving place within you, there’s no stopping you.
That’s why I’m proud to stand with Girl Up as a Champion and why I’ll be joining them for their Leadership Summit in July when I’ll go to Capitol Hill with over 300 girls from around the world to tell the U.S. Congress why supporting refugee girls’ education is the right thing to do.
If you want to join me and celebrate girls like Fautima who shine bright and fight for girls everywhere, check out how Girl Up is helping girls raise their voice to make sure every refugee girl gets the same chance to go to school and choose her future.