Last week, I had the privilege of attending the 2012 Girls' World Forum in my home town of Chicago. This exciting event, hosted by the Girl Scouts of the USA, brought together member organizations of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) in the last of three events that began in the United Kingdom in 2010 to celebrate the centenary of international Girl Guiding and Girl Scouting. There were over 500 girls ages 14-18 who joined from around the world to discuss global issues and commemorate the 100th Anniversary of Girl Scouts of the USA. This five-day program was developed by an all-girl planning committee.
I met with nearly 300 girls and young women in a series of listening sessions. These inspiring young people shared with me the "take action" plans they've created to implement project plans in their home countries. All of the "take action" plans focus on the Millennium Development Goals of eradicating extreme hunger and poverty, promoting gender equality and empowering women, and ensuring environmental sustainability.
I heard about some amazing project ideas. In India, two of the girls are working together to craft a project that focuses on feeding the extreme poor in large urban areas. The projects from Uganda and Burkina Faso focused on youth empowerment through education. Girls from the Dominican Republic and Venezuela came up with creative recycling programs in their countries. Another group of girls in Venezuela are coming up with a plan to promote eco-tourism in their country.
We brainstormed on how to creatively fundraise, how to get people interested in their projects, and how the State Department can support their work. I invited them to participate in our embassy's youth councils in their home countries, where we seek to engage young people from a variety of backgrounds on the issues they face. I am always grateful for opportunities to engage with young leaders and I look forward to remaining in touch with the girls on their projects!