Girls 20 Summit

Date: Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Message of UN Women Executive Director, Michelle Bachelet, at the Girls 20 Summit, Paris, France, 18 October 2011.

It is my pleasure to address the Girls 20 Summit. I want to thank the organizers of this Summit for bringing all of us together.

I was once a girl myself and I still believe in girl power. Now I'm the head of UN Women and we are dedicated to women's empowerment and gender equality.

As girls, you know that the drive for gender equality and empowerment must begin with girls. The Girls 20 Summit is a testament to the tremendous potential that girls and young women like you have—to imagine, lead, and create a better world for all.

While you as young women and girls make up half of the global youth population. That's where gender equality ends. Worldwide, girls are still less likely to go to school than boys; still get less food and resources; and are disproportionately impacted by gender-based violence.

In many cases, the marginalization of girls and young women starts early, follows into adolescence and adulthood, and perpetuates poverty and inequalities worldwide.

At UN Women, we believe that girls are a vital part of the solution to creating lasting justice, equity and prosperity within families, communities and nations. And I am so pleased that all of you have come together at this summit to share ideas, learn new things and become Ambassadors for women's empowerment and gender equality in your communities and beyond.

We already have the evidence that greater gender equality correlates with stronger, faster growing economies. And we know that if we unleash the potential of the world's girls and young women, we will unleash a powerful force that will bring lasting change to all corners of the globe. I congratulate all of you on the 3.3 billion ways to change the world campaign.

So now, it's time for decisive action. Investing in girls - in your leadership and empowerment - is the smartest investment that a country can make today.

As we have seen from the events of the “Arab Spring, young women have been actively involved in a new wave of demands for political freedoms and dignity, making use of new technologies and social media. In the streets of Tunis, Cairo, Sanaa and other cities, it has been inspiring to see young women from all walks of life joining the ranks of protestors to demand democracy and citizenship.

I am very happy to see that you came together this week to learn about how YOU can utilize social media and YOUR voice for political change, just before the leaders of the world's most powerful nations meet here for the G20 Summit in two weeks.

I am proud to report that UN Women is working on many fronts with girls and young women across the globe. In Asia and the Pacific, UN Women and other UN partners are engaging young people through new technology and social media to address the issue of violence against girls and women. We are also working with the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts to promote girls' leadership in advocating against gender-based violence through non-formal education and community action worldwide.

Today I invite each and every one of you to take action to end this global pandemic of violence and let the world know about your actions through our global advocacy platform,

As participants of the Girls 20 Summit, you bring both the “gender lens and the “girl lens to the table, and develop solutions to some of the most pressing issues of our times. Your role as catalysts for change in your own countries and communities cannot be overstated.

I look forward to working with you to make gender equality our shared reality.