November 24, 2023

My UNGA Journey: Empowering Adolescent Girls on the Global Stage

Girl Voices, Stay Updated

by Misati, AGIP Girl Advisor 2023 

I am Misati, an adolescent girl from Kenya associated with the Northern Women Empowerment Initiative (NOWEI) Kenya. Thanks to the support of AMPLIFY Girls and the Adolescent Girls Investment Plan (AGIP), I had the incredible opportunity to participate in events at the fringes of the United Nations General Assembly and related meetings held in New York from 15 – 23 September 2023. 

In today’s world, we are confronted with numerous crises, issues, and conflicts.

Amid all these challenges, adolescent girls and young women, who have often been marginalized throughout their lives, continue to silently endure without the hope of change; in fact, their situations seem to be deteriorating. 

However, organizations like AMPLIFY Girls and AGIP are taking a different approach: they actively engage adolescent girls and young women in government discussions. I am honoured to be one of the girls who have benefited from this initiative. With Anika Dorothy Jane, Head of Advocacy and Partner Management at AMPLIFY GIRLS, as my safeguarding focal point, we travelled all the way from Nairobi, Kenya to New York, USA. 

 While attending the Generation Equality Midpoint Moment at the UN Secretariat Headquarters, what stood out for me was seeing a panel of young women on stage bravely voicing their truths in front of global leaders in the chamber. For me and many other girls, this was a dream come true – being represented by our peers. 

The simplest joy I experienced was connecting with other young people who shared the same passion for making a difference. We exchanged stories, experiences, ideas, and the challenges we all faced. By the end of the day, we realized that even though we come from different parts of the world and are associated with different organizations, we all share common needs: inclusion, agency, representation, consideration, and the drive to make a change. Our takeaway was the hope that one day we will form a strong global community of these girl leaders and activists to support and empower each other as we work towards changing the world for the better in different ways.  

I exercised my agency by participating in the AGIP Breakfast meeting, a closed-door meeting between adolescent girls and a select few global government representatives. During this meeting, my voice was heard, and the opinions of adolescent girls were genuinely considered. While this might not seem significant to some, for adolescent girls who have felt voiceless for years, it represents a ray of hope that they can continue to fight for their rights. 

I was able to participate meaningfully with Fatumzahra Hanni Oda from NOWEI Kenya as my guide. Although she wasn’t physically present with me, she provided all the encouragement and guidance I needed and was just a phone call away. Anika supported me every step of the way as a young person, and I would not have been able to navigate the streets of New York without her. AGIP prep meetings with my fellow adolescent girl leaders ensured I felt confident entering spaces where I would – literally – sit across the table from ministers and senior government advisors. 

Realistically, apart from events that were planned with us, as an adolescent girl I faced a few barriers to the various official spaces I entered. One of these barriers was the discrepancy between appearances and actual actions. While adolescent girls were given the space to participate, the tangible outcomes of our involvement often amounted to little more than photographs. We are not just advocating for inclusion but meaningful inclusion and consideration at all levels. In some cases, there were spaces we, as young people, were unable to access due to strict invitation requirements or other constraints. We genuinely hope this can change with the principle: “Don’t speak for us; speak to us.” 

It is evident that agency builds a girl up in a way that many metrics have not fully achieved. The power of being in the room for these girls is often life changing. 

In conclusion, as a community, it is imperative that we not only urgently invest in girls’ representation but also place increased emphasis on building girls’ agency, equipping them with the tools they need to actively and meaningfully participate in global decision-making spaces.