Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Wednesday, December 12th, 2018

My Girls20 Journey

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My Girls20 Journey

It was April 2016 when I received the exciting news that I was selected in the Girls20 delegate representing Afghanistan.
Girls20 is a globally active social enterprise from Canada that cultivates a new generation of female leaders through education, entrepreneurial training, leadership, and global experiences – with one ultimate goal: Increasing female labor force participation around the world.
Designed G20 style, Girls20 brings together one delegate from each G20 country, plus a representative from the European and African Unions, Afghanistan, Pakistan and the MENA region. After a thorough selection process, I was honored to be chosen as the representative of Afghanistan for 2016.
Every year before the Annual G20 Leader’s Summit, the Girls20 delegates come together for their own Summit to debate relevant issues, to learn about strategic skills and to prepare an Official Communiqué to the G20 leaders. My journey towards this inspiring summit started on the first day of August and took me all the way to Beijing, China.
On August 3, I met the other delegates and the Girls20 team during the introductory meeting and I can still feel the excitement of talking to them for the first time. There were plenty of other opportunities to get to know each other and share stories mainly during our meals and at the debrief sessions, which was usually my favorite part of the day. At the end of the day, we come together to talk about what we’ve learned and work on team building and networking.
The Girls20 welcome reception was a memorable experience where I met amazing people and some of my role models. The reception was hosted by Ambassador Saint Jacques Canada’s Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China and we had the honor of meeting the Canadian Minister of Immigration and Citizenship, the Chief of Staff of the Prime Minister of Canada, the UN Global Coalition of Young Women Entrepreneurs, officials from G20 countries as well as representatives of several international companies. It was truly inspiring talking with them and hearing their ideas about bringing more women into the workforce.
Our program in China was multifaceted. We received a number of trainings to gain valuable skills, such as communications and leadership skills and strategic planning, and we heard speeches of many female leaders. One of the speakers I felt particularly inspired by was Ching Tien, the Founder and President of Educating Girls of Rural China. She provides mental and financial support to girls and women in rural China to continue their education, and she gives them the hope and strength to follow their dreams. We had the pleasure of meeting some of these young girls themselves and to listen to their stories.
We also had the opportunity to discuss our post summit initiatives with Girls20 advisors and seek their comments and advice. My initiative focuses on the empowerment of girls and women in the rural areas of Afghanistan by enriching them with entrepreneurial and leadership skills and English language trainings. My advisors gave me recommendations on taking a step-by-step approach to implement the project.
Coming from Afghanistan, I was often asked questions such as What is your country’s current situation? Do you have many schools there? Are you safe? Do the Taliban still exist? Can women leave their homes? etc. I tried to address these questions to the best of my ability and talked about the developments of recent years, the improvements in our education system and the position of women, but I also spoke about the many problems that my country still has to deal with, such as access to education and health clinics in rural areas and the extremely low female labor force participation rate.
I personally believe that the government of Afghanistan should improve access to entrepreneurship trainings in rural areas, to empower women to run their own business and be more financially independent.  
On August 9, the official part of the summit began with the wise words of the Prime Minister of Canada and self-proclaimed feminist, Justin Trudeau. His opening address was followed by several keynote speeches and panel debates on issues such as male champions of change, understanding our future workforce, the future of jobs and talent, and securing a fair share in growth sectors.
The most challenging but also rewarding part of the summit was to define and write a set of key recommendations to the G20 leaders to increase female labor participation. Access to proper education is of great concern to many Afghan citizens and takes a prominent place in the Communiqué. Including the needs of girls and women in education, entrepreneurship and employment policies is integral to providing girls and women with the skills and opportunities to participate and advance in the labor force.
In my Girls20 journey, I had the chance to speak about all the challenges girls and women in Afghanistan face, to hear from other delegates about the issues in their respective countries, and most importantly, to combine our ideas to find the best way to tackle these challenges for a better world. In Beijing, I found an international network of young women – future leaders not to forget! - of more than 20 countries; a family that has given me the strength and motivation to pursue my passion to contribute to the empowerment of girls and women and to fight for change in my country Afghanistan.

Simin Haidary is a freelance Afghan columnist. She can be reached shokrullah_s@auca.kg

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