Girls’ World Forum 2012
Earlier this year, girls from 79 countries and 89 U.S. councils met at the Girls’ World Forum 2012 in Chicago to address the world's most urgent challenges. Girls discussed systems to help end poverty and hunger, ways to empower women, and issues surrounding environmental sustainability. One of these young leaders, Julia Lu, shares her amazing experience with us.
By Julia Lu, Ambassador Girl Scout
The night before our departure I felt slightly overwhelmed trying to figure out what to pack for our week-long trip that would allow us to enjoy the sights and sounds of the Windy City. I kept consulting itineraries and dress codes in an attempt to pack appropriately—I did not want to bring five pairs of shorts that would all end up coming back untouched! And yet, even though I read and re-read every bit of information I had in regard to the Forum, I still had no idea what to expect.
One week later I could not believe I would be returning home already. There I was, drunk on life, exhausted from fits of giddy laughter in room 1532 where my new-found international family was bidding each other farewell. What had seemed like just a short trip at first ended up feeling like the experience of a lifetime, spent with friends from across the globe. Not only did my circle of friends expand into the corners of the earth—so did my feeling that I have an obligation to help save the world.
Formally, the Girls’ World Forum 2012 was an international gathering of Girl Scouts and Girl Guides to discuss and address three of the Millennium Development Goals established by the United Nations and ways in which we can apply those goals to our own communities. The spectacular thing about the Girls’ World Forum is that it brought together young citizens from all over the world to take steps toward achieving goals set by the world’s heads of state. WAGGGS (World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts) and the United Nations are two multinational organizations that aim to change the world as we know it. Isn’t that a wonderful thing?
The three Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) we focused on were eradicating extreme poverty and hunger (MDG #1), promoting gender equality (MDG #3), and ensuring environmental sustainability (MDG #7). In regard to extreme poverty, I learned that the amount of money people around the world spend on hair loss treatment is more than the amount of money estimated to completely eradicate extreme poverty. Concerning gender equality, I learned that in villages in India, women no longer ask their husbands for permission to add salt to their food—a symbolic gesture of independence and self-empowerment—because together, they have brought their village out of poverty. On environmental sustainability, I learned that the products we choose to buy may encourage illegal logging which further diminishes the Earth’s biodiversity.
Changing the world doesn’t have to come in a package wrapped in fancy paper and tied with a big satin ribbon. It is as simple as buying paper products approved by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) which ensures that those products were produced using raw materials that were not obtained by means of illegal logging. All it takes is a quick check for the FSC logo (a green checkmark morphing into a tree), and you’ll already be protecting forests and the animals that live in them.
Change starts with knowledge and awareness. Once you know what’s actually going on in this world beyond what corporations want you to think, you’re as good as gold. The Girls’ World Forum wasn’t just about addressing the UN Millennium Development Goals, nor was it simply fun and games. The deeper purpose of the Forum was to educate and empower the participants, to encourage them to think of themselves as global citizens with a shared future, and to make them aware that they can make a difference. You can, too.