How I unleashed the girl effect

In preparation for the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) meeting, I asked myself over and over again, “What is it that girls need and what do I want the outside world to know about girls in Rwanda and about the Girl Effect?” The day before CGI, I understood the answer to that question: I want people to understand that the only way at the moment to move forward is through girls.
Juliet Musabayezu at the Clinton Global Initiative meeting held in New York, September 2011.
Juliet Musabayezu at the Clinton Global Initiative meeting held in New York, September 2011.

In preparation for the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) meeting, I asked myself over and over again, “What is it that girls need and what do I want the outside world to know about girls in Rwanda and about the Girl Effect?”

The day before CGI, I understood the answer to that question: I want people to understand that the only way at the moment to move forward is through girls.

Girls are the one solution that many people haven’t tried and they are the one solution that could work. Change starts with a girl and through girls the Girl Effect is unleashed.

CGI is a platform where movers and shakers, meet to gain ideas that seem to work in other countries and hope that they work in their countries. They learn and share.

So what did I learn and share about girls at CGI? Well, in the plenary session “The World at Seven Billion,” Bill Clinton made clear that he believes in the girl effect and the fact that girls are the only way forward. Who knew that Bill Clinton strongly supported girls?

On that same day, during my breakout session, “Transformative Tools for a Skilled Workforce” I met a lot of wonderful people who are doing amazing things for the youth across the world and have set up non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that provide these youth with tools.

During the panel discussion I came to the conclusion that sometimes the answers to questions like scaling up and increasing the number of people who understand the issues that face the youth, can actually be solved by involving the youth themselves.

Perhaps there comes a point when making connection from one individual to another individual all with the same dream, is more helpful in scaling up.

That is the very nature of the girl effect, something we defined at the CGI as, “a movement from one girl to the next, where the notions and ideas, one has learnt are transferred and gained by the other girl.”

Just like the girl effect aims to connect girls to each other, perhaps these shakers and movers need to find a way to connect their dreams with people who have the same ones.

While at CGI I connected to another girl who wants to make noise for girls too – Sophia from GirlUp. During my interaction with Sophia, I realized that we share the same dream of making noise for girls, and that we can help scale the noise for girls by connecting and spreading our ideas to other girls, both in the US and in Rwanda. Together, we can make more noise than when we are apart.

For the rest of that week I met amazing individuals such as Peter and Jennifer Buffet and Mandy Moore. 

Both Jennifer and Mandy represent women who actually managed to climb over the first barrier that most girls face and that is, the need to dream—to have a vision for oneself. Role models like these are so important for millions of girls to realize that they too, can dream.

My last day at CGI, made me realize that the dream to empower girls needs to come from girls themselves. People often believe that in order to have girls promoted, third party intervention must be in place. As much as this intervention is useful, it should be considered a bonus, we need to pave our own way. Change starts with girls and everyone and you can start that change.

In Rwanda, we have a name for a girl that creates change. She is called “Ni Nyampinga”. She is beautiful, hard working, determined, well rounded. She is a girl in her prime who makes good decisions.

A girl that will unleash the Girl Effect: as an educated mother, an active, productive citizen, and a prepared employee, she can break the cycle of poverty—for herself, for her family, for her community.

If we invest in her and help her move forward, we will move a whole nation forward, and eventually make a world of difference. I want each girl to know they can do that.

The author is a Rwandan student at Harvard University.
jmusabayezu@college.harvard.edu

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