21 Delegates, 21 Reasons Why Girls Matter

Girls20.jpgDelegates from the G20 and the African Union attend the inaugural G(irls)20 Summit in Toronto. (Adrien Veczan/Canadian Press)

By Amal Ga'al, G20 citizen blogger

Amal Gaal52.jpgAttending the opening ceremony of the G(irls) 20 Summit on June 16 was an eye-opening experience.

While I was already aware of many of the challenges facing women and girls today, I still found myself shocked and outraged by the injustice crushing the aspirations and futures of 60 million girls who are not given a primary education. Most of the panellists spoke of education as a means to improve the state of the world's women and girls and I agree wholeheartedly. If women and girls are educated, they will be more likely to secure jobs, marry later and have fewer children, thereby reducing poverty.

But, at the same time, the attitudes our societies have towards women must change. Women must be more than just accepted -- they must be encouraged to participate fully in politics and decision-making because their perspectives will shape more equal laws and policies for our nations.
When I saw the 21 girls representing the G20 countries and the African Union, I felt very proud. These delegates were around my age and with their intelligence, passion and eloquence, they proved that young people have something important to say.

Below are some of the young women sharing their hopes and dreams for the future of women in their countries.

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Whether they lived in a developing country or a developed one, the delegates for the G(irls) 20 Summit identified the negative effects of gender inequality in the workforce, education system and in the home. It was depressing to realize just how pervasive this issue is. Economic growth might lead to better opportunities for women and girls, but it doesn't necessarily lead to gender equality. If it did, then rich nations would have just as many women as men in leadership positions and looking at the G8 leaders, this is clearly not the case.

Promoting gender equality would actually improve our economies as more women would be working.

One of the delegates said that girls are not just the leaders of the future, but the leaders of today. Why wait until we are older to take our opinions seriously? As the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals fast approaches, it is becoming painfully obvious that we don't have any time to waste.

Related: Meet the team