Invest in change, one girl at a time

Global Issues By Christine Wardlaw May 29, 2018

Women Political Leaders (WPL), the global network of female politicians, is teaming up with Western Union, a leader in cross-border, cross-currency money movement, to encourage more girls to get involved in politics, with the goal of increasing female representation in political and government roles and driving greater diversity of thinking in policymaking and governance.

Sally Dimachki is one of the G(irls)20 Ambassadors and Steering Committee Chair. A version of this article was originally posted on the G(irls)20 Blog:

Invest in Change, One Girl at a Time

By: Sally Dimachki, G(irls)20 Ambassador & Steering Committee Chair

My awareness of human rights violations began when I visited a relative in a Syrian jail. As a child, you are taught that only ‘bad’ people go to jail. Yet, before learning to read and write, I learned that this wasn’t always true. I learned that ‘good’ people could end up jailed, tortured and killed because they spoke out against injustice.

Ever since that experience, I have been determined to speak up for equality and justice at home and abroad. That determination to be on the right side of justice always guided me — until, years later, after having lived the immigrant journey in France and Canada, when reality finally set in. I quickly realized that my gender and my immigration status would be barriers to having my voice heard, and to reaching my full potential in the labour force. My education and dedication armed me to challenge racism and sexism, but it wasn’t enough to fully thrive.

We need opportunities like WPL’s #Girls2Leader Summit to Open Doors

In light of recent feminist movements, such as the women’s marches, and the #MeToo and #TimesUp campaigns, we see that women still have limited opportunities to gain practical skills and have their voices heard at the highest levels of governance. When I was 20 years old, the G(irls)20 Summit was a unique opportunity I came across to reverse this trend. 6 years later, I am excited to attend WPL’s Global Forum and take part in their #Girl2Leader campaign, because the G(irls)20 Summit was just the beginning. The WPL Global Forum will provide workshops to build essential skills and knowledge for us to take our advocacy global – from policy workshops to social media training. Most importantly, it will connect determined young women to each other —creating an incredible network of young women with the same drive to tackle issues faced by women & girls across the globe.

Investing in women & girls is the right thing to do, but also the smart thing to do.

Gender parity could add more than $12 trillion to the global economy. However, as the G20 countries continue to develop solutions for sustainable economic growth, only 15 women are currently heads of state and 18.3% government ministers are women. How can we achieve economic prosperity when we leave out 50% of the population at the highest levels of the decision-making process?

Increasing female representation at all levels of leadership is crucial, but it’s not just about more women in politics. Whether it’s by being a CEO, an entrepreneur, an engineer, leading an NGO or volunteering in the community — my key takeaway from the summit was to never be afraid to spark change using your own path.

One successful way of leveraging leadership spaces is women on boards. Status of Women Canada is aiming to increase female representation on boards to 30% in both the private and public sectors by 2019. Improving programming, leadership skills and fostering opportunities FOR #youngfemaleleaders BY #youngfemaleleaders is a necessary step forward. However, these spaces remain rare and undervalued. G(irls)20 and #Girl2Leader is working towards making these spaces the norm, not the exception.

My story is the story of millions of young girls who are witnessing injustice first hand and want to create change. The G(irls)20 Summit was a catalyst to my growth as a young leader — it gave me the confidence and tools needed to continue breaking the glass ceiling throughout my career. However, I continue to be a minority. Every time I hear the story of a young Syrian woman looking to be heard to spark change, but who faces the many systemic challenges that come with raising her voice, I am reminded that it could have been me. It is vital to continue supporting initiatives like G(irls)20 and WPL #Girls2Lead to give every girl the chance to achieve her full potential. Girls can be incredible agents of change if and when we invest in them.