#GirlsGovern Town Hall (09.14.16)

GlobalGirl Media – an organization that seeks to empower and give underprivileged youth a voice through media and literacy mediums – was founded in 2010 and is active in South Africa, Morocco, Kosovo, Chicago, Los Angeles and the Bay Area. Global Girl has designed a national program tagged #girlsgovern to encourage and give space for young women to confidently and independently use their voices (#ownthemic) to access and contribute to important national and political conversations.

On Wednesday, September 14th, GlobalGirl Media hosted their first ever #GirlsGovernTownHall, bringing together youth, journalists, activists, and politicians to discuss some of the most pressing current topics that pertain to women and girls and global conflicts. I volunteered for the event, attending with the organization I am interning for, Girl Up. I doubled as a mic runner and a sponge; soaking up the energies, experiences, and ideas brought to the stage by some really kickass girls and women. Panel topics ranged from Navigating Media: Safety and Free Speech, to one titled,”Girls Rights Are Human Rights, Right?” Keynote speakers included the likes of Hillary Clinton’s Sr. Women’s Issues Advisor (mind you that is an abbreviated title) Rachel Vogelstein, TV personality and entrepreneur Ashlee Wilson Hawn, award winning journalist and filmmaker Anna Therese Day, and many more.

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Ashlee Wilson Hawn, Courtesy of GlobalGirl Media

Ashlee Wilson Hawn, former Miss Georgia reality Television Star, turned successful entrepreneur and business owner, advised all the girls in the room to follow their passions and “live in your truth.” Besides being the very definition of a sweet southern belle, Ashlee emitted intelligence, honesty, assertiveness, and compassion; declaring confidence (especially for girls) as the road to success.

Anna Therese Day, award-winning journalist, social media researcher, and filmmaker, spoke briefly on her experiences covering the Middle East, American Foreign Policy, and being a young female in a competitive, male-dominated profession. She shared her own “personal… truth” and the ways in which that has stayed at the core of her career and life since she was 13 years old. Anna demonstrated a struggle very central to those with intimate access to foreign policy and global conflict: existing with the honor and responsibility that comes with being on and witnessing the ‘front line,’ as well as the lingering trauma and suffering that may result within. Using her experiences, she imparted three lessons onto her young audience. The first, is that all young people <strong>deserve</strong> a voice. No matter the location or position of a person, this is a right. The second, is to turn “what the world perceives as your weaknesses into your strength,” using her struggles as a young female journalist as an analogy. For her third point, she emphasized the concept of voicelessness; the existence of the deliberate marginalization of people to eliminate their voice. To fight this, she stressed the importance for young people to “#ownthemic”and own their place as a part of important discussions. Quoting a young activists she interviewed in Cairo, she advised girls to “be at the table or be on the menu.”

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