Editor’s Note: These are the full remarks delivered by Save the Children Girl Champion, Nina, who is opening the second session of the 2020 Virtual Advocacy Summit. View the condensed version of her remarks below or learn more about the Summit.
Hello, my name is Nina, I’m 17 years old and I live in Armenia. I am a member of Save the Children Armenia’s youth advisory team. I would like to share my story with you – how I started to be socially active, participate in different projects, volunteer and also share just some thoughts about leadership of girls.
Everything started 3 years ago. There were a lot of problems around me. Women who had no voice in their families, children who were unable to exercise their right to education or to decent life, issues of children participation and many more other problems which we can see every day . I was always thinking about them, but I did not ever think about solutions. This is the problem of our mindset. We don’t think about the solutions, and especially, we don’t think that we can be the one who will find the solution.
I looked around and suddenly understood that every problem required a solution. Then I realized that I could help to solve the problems concerning women rights.
The Moment When Everything Changed
I started to volunteer and participate in different programs. Most importantly I started to find my own solutions by taking on my own initiatives.
When I began my advocacy, I noticed that in Armenia, women and girls mostly don’t participate in decision-making processes in their communities related to issues that directly concern them. This is because of stereotypes and the attitude of the general society, which is more prone to prioritizing men in everything. I decided to organize a team with 12 girls to start working with community leaders and discuss mechanisms that can help women and girls be involved in decision-making process of their communities. Honestly, it was very difficult to find 12 girls who were willing to participate in this kind of project. As I said, in Armenia, girls are not always very active because of the stereotypes we have in our society. They couldn’t understand the importance of their participation because they were never asked to participate in discussions concerning their problems.
Luckily I could find 12 interested girls with whom we made a team called “12 Initiative Voices.” This team started discussions full of practical ideas and propositions with the leaders of our municipality. As young girls, we raised the issue of funding the community-based services for children so that young mothers can work. We raised the issue of urban infrastructure accessibility. Our meetings showed that young girls have ideas and can negotiate them. This was a small step towards a future without barriers for women who wanted to be engaged in politics.
And why is this so important? Because if we want to have a better community we need to listen to both men and women. Women and girls are effective not only in housework but also in careers and in the community. Women and girls themselves must understand that they have voice and that their voice is important for their community. Men and women are equal but they think differently and look at things differently. Sometimes girls can see things men can’t see and the opposite. That’s why we need to engage both to reach the maximum result. We need to try our best to make an equal society for everyone!
Finding Joy amid the Pandemic
Now there are difficult times for all of us. In my country, both girls and boys are impacted by the [COVID-19] pandemic in different ways. Both face the problem of access to online education because many lack computer equipment. However, girls and women also face the burden of increased house-hold work especially when they need to combine jobs with care of children or siblings.
You could ask me, why I am telling you this? Because it is very important to understand that if you want to change something, you need to do it yourself. Every change starts with you! If we all remember this simple rule, our society will grow every day, every second, and we will become better together. So here I am, a girl from a small country sitting here and believing in better future. And I truly believe that we will make our future better by talking about our problems, by finding solutions and by really acting.
Now, when we are in isolation without our usual life, it’s very hard to think about something positive. But let me tell you something. This time is a gift. We were so busy with our work and lessons that we couldn’t even think about important things like spending time with our families or realizing the dreams we’ve always had. Here is the thing which we always lacked: time. Read the book you were too busy to read, learn to cook that delicious cake and think about the change you always wanted to make in your community.
Stay home, stay safe and remember that there is life after the virus.