It is a pretty incredible experience to speak in front of a room full of very powerful people – and that is exactly what I did Thursday night, 21 January, at the Schatzalp Hotel in Davos.
It happened at the official launch of the Global Goals Campaign for Girls and Women. I was there to represent UNICEF – in my role as a National Ambassador to Ethiopia.
The guest list was a little intimidating. It varied from actors and music stars to leaders of media companies and international CEOs. The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, David Cameron, and philanthropist Bill Gates opened the dinner at the reception.
And then there was me. An 18-year-old college student, humanitarian, and advocate for education. Interacting with leaders in their respective fields was definitely a change in day to day activities. I saw many strong advocates for women and girls empowerment from Emma Watson to Kevin Spacey to US Secretary of State John Kerry. It was a very engaging and calm environment, and I observed in awe how many guests came ready to listen and act on what they had heard in conversations that evening. I was also happy to note several individuals eager to stand in solidarity with girls for the global goals.
The aim of the Global Goals Campaign for Global Girls is to make sure that international development goals are “famous, financed and focused on girls.” The kick-off was held as part of the World Economic Forum.
I spoke last – after Sheryl Sandberg, Freida Pinto and Melinda Gates. Bono was the Master of Ceremonies and introduced me. Acting as the master of ceremony, he did an incredible job of letting the women who “get stuff done” share their takes on how we can make women and girls the focus of the agenda in every sector. I was a bit apprehensive in following such incredible women, however I knew there needed to be a voice that could represent how the need for girls to have a presence at the discussion table of their issues is imperative.
At the end of my talk, I called on the people in the room to stay focused and achieve success in making the world a better place for girls and children. I also left a letter at each guest’s seat to remind them of our commitments throughout 2016 and beyond. I think having a girl like myself there helped to centre the vast scope of efforts that need to be made to transform current prevailing gender inequities – it made the issues we spoke about in the abstract tangible and very present. I found the guests to be extremely attentive and I was fortunate to integrate some of the messages I had sought from social media about how we can put our efforts to scale into my message.
This event was really just a start – what matters is what happens next with the Global Goals.
As I said in my letter: We need to look forward to a world where no girl goes through life without an education; where no girl is married before reaching her 18th birthday; where no woman dies while giving birth because her body is not ready to have children, where female and male representation in global government is equal, where violence against girls and women is a thing of the past and where the stigma of gender inequality is consigned to history.
They are big goals. But we need to achieve them. The lives of too many children – and girls – depend on it.
Hannah Godefah, UNICEF National Ambassador to Ethiopia