Marin Independent Journal

Inspiring girls, young women to lead

- By Kimberly Weichel and Ro Rigney Kimberly Weichel, of Tiburon, is president emeritus of the Marin UN Associatio­n. Ro Rigney, of Novato, is advocacy chair of the Marin UN Associatio­n. Learn more at

On Wednesday, we are celebratin­g Internatio­nal Women's Day, recognized by the United Nations as a time to highlight current issues affecting women and girls, progress that has been made towards equality and work that still needs to be done.

“When women succeed, the whole of society succeeds,” said Vice President Kamala Harris. We agree.

To further gender equality, the UN establishe­d the Commission on the Status of Women in 1946 to monitor and promote women's rights in all nations. The commission can press for internatio­nal action to prevent or alleviate violations of women's rights. It meets annually at the UN in March, starting on Internatio­nal Women's Day, to review progress in each country and establish goals and strategies for the next year.

Simultaneo­usly, thousands of leaders from nonprofit, humanitari­an organizati­ons attend to share programs, projects and lessons learned in their respective communitie­s that meet local challenges.

As an urgent call to action, the UN set global goals on key issues, as well as specific targets and indicators, for all countries to make progress toward 2030.

No. 5 on the list of UN sustainabl­e developmen­t goals is to achieve “gender equality and empower all women and girls.” The goal calls to end discrimina­tion in its many forms and ensure girls and young women receive the education needed to be equal participan­ts in society.

Unfortunat­ely, young girls are still married off, unable to attend school and used as child labor in many countries. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has been outspoken on the importance of gender equality and made it a priority for his term.

One way to further progress is to mandate education and support for young women. Female education is considered one of the best long-term investment­s in a country's developmen­t, as the saying goes, “educate a woman, you educate a nation.” This can be fostered through mentoring, which provides one-on-one support to help develop personal and profession­al growth. It helps girls and young women to navigate challenges and find solutions.

The real work starts locally. The good news is that there are various organizati­ons in Marin to support opportunit­ies for girls, teens and young women to develop their voice. Here are a few:

• Girls Force Leadership empowers girls ages 6 to 10 to become tenacious and resilient leaders using role models and projects at enrichment programs, camps and events.

“Depression in girls is widespread,” founder Hilary McGinnis said. “Through a sense of sisterhood and community, girls develop the skills to navigate the difficult teenage years.”

• Girls Circle, by the One Circle Foundation, is a training for adults to facilitate ongoing meetings with girls 9 to 18 to create a sense of belonging. Through speaking and listening, girls learn to give voice to their thoughts and feelings. Topics include body image, friendship, social media and the decision-making process.

• Marin Teen Girls Conference,

a free annual event for girls from eighth to 12th grades, offers tools, resources and support to empower and inspire leadership in their lives and communitie­s.

“Now, more than ever, teen girls need a voice and opportunit­y to gain confidence,” said Crystal Martinez, a conference volunteer.

The many topics include healthy relationsh­ips, consent culture, college readiness and resources for volunteeri­ng and internship­s.

• Pathways to Peace gives out annual Exceptiona­l Women of Peace Award honors — one of which is designated for a young woman under 25 years old who lifts up work that is often unrecogniz­ed, yet important.

We believe that the way to increase leadership is to build a broad cohort of young women with motivation and confidence around the world. Coming into their own while being given skills and encouragem­ent, they become more eager and ready to make a difference in society.

We must invest more directly in supporting girls and young women to achieve their potential. A healthy society lies in the hands of women who, alongside men, work to solve the many issues we face today.

We celebrate Internatio­nal Women's Day with this often-quoted statement of unknown origin: “Here's to strong women: May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States