Putting Girls First: A recap Girl Summit DC 2015

by student contributor Hannah Stambaugh

The Center for Global Development hosted Washington, DC’s first Girl Summit last week. The theme of the innovative one-day conference was Putting Girls First: A Focus on Solutions to End Child Marriage Globally. In the summer of 2014, the UK held the first international Girl Summit to mobilize national and international efforts to end childhood early and forced marriage (CEFM) and female genital mutilation (FGM). The event, co-hosted by UNICEF, inspired Washington’s CGD to collaborate with a series of organizations to hold the city’s own satellite summit on ending CEFM and CGD last summer. This year’s event drew several hundred practitioners, academics, and students and honed in exclusively on ending child marriage.

CGD partnered with the International Women’s Health Coalition, Girls Not Brides, Human Rights Watch, American Jewish World Service, The International Center for Research on Women, CARE, Promundo, and Population Council to put on the conference.

Girl Summit DC began with a panel on emerging research in the field, moderated by Daniela Ligiero, PhD of the United Nations Foundation’s Girls and Women Strategy. Panelists discussed what they each perceived as the most important piece of evidence and the prospects for evidence-based interventions. One of the themes that emerged in Panel 1 was the need to enact normative change. Without changing gendered norms, interventions like conditional cash transfer programs, even changes in laws, will not create sustainable differences for girls. Panelists also stressed the importance of quality girls’ education and creation of healthy safe spaces for girls to learn, collaborate, mentor, and grow.

From left to right: Doris Bartell, Danedjo Hadidja, Sajeda Amin, and Giovanna Lauro in Panel 2: Voices from the Field
From left to right: Doris Bartell, Danedjo Hadidja, Sajeda Amin, and Giovanna Lauro in Panel 2: Voices from the Field

The day’s second panel shifted from a larger, conceptual picture of CEFM to a more concrete discussion of effective programming in the field. Panel 2 echoed Panel 1’s imperative to keep girls in school and engaging them directly in the discussion of solutions. Danedjo Hadidja, President of the Association for the Promotion of Autonomy and Rights of Young Girls and Women (Cameroon) and a survivor of a forced marriage, and Giovanna Lauro, PhD, Deputy Director of International Programs at Promundo (Brazil), compared the different normative contexts in their respective home countries. Lauro said that unlike many regions where CEFM is common, many Brazilian girls are choosing to enter “consensual” unions, though the definition of consensual becomes very shaky when young girls are “choosing” to marry out of economic necessity. Girls living through CEFM the world over experience similar issues like limited mobility and decision-making capacity. This panel also introduced the necessity of engaging men and boys in gender equity work, focusing on the specific needs of women in girls in times of natural disaster and conflict, and building safe spaces for girls.

The day’s events concluded with a high-level panel on the US government’s role in ending CEFM globally. Rachel Vogel, Director of the Women and Foreign Policy Program at the Council on Foreign Relations, moderated. Panelists were Ambassador Cathy Russell (Office of Global Women’s Issues, U.S. Department of State), Carrie Hessler-Radelet (Director- Peace Corps), Susan Markham (Senior Coordinator for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment, USAID), Dana Hyde (CEO, Millennium Challenge Corporation), and Angeli Achrekar (Chief of Staff, State Department Office of the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator and Health Diplomacy).

Girl Summit DC was an engaging and nuanced discussion of new research and promising practices to end CEFM. Speakers and participants from around the world,including survivors of child forced marriages, brought many perspectives and experiences to the table, highlighting progress that has been made as well as the many challenges still faced by the global community in ending child marriage.




DC event recap: Unless I Say Yes—Sexual Choices of Young Women and Men

Unless I Say Yes—Sexual Choices of Young Women and Men

by Staff Contributor Camry Haskins

On Thursday, February 5, the Global Women’s Institute (GWI) hosted the 12th anniversary of the Bokamoso youth’s residency at GW. As part of their visit, the South African youth drama and music program took part in an interactive workshop with the GW community. It was a cross-cultural workshop centered on sexual choices in adolescence. The event began with a series of performances based on issues faced by South African youths. The four performances were entitled: “Boy’ Rap”, “Step Around”, “It Won’t Happen to You”, and “Take Off the Mask”. The performances covered topics that included: sex in relationships, female disempowerment, and family struggles.

After the performances, the Bokamoso youths formed a semi-circle on the stage and began an open dialogue with the audience. Questions regarding differences between cultures started the discussion, but it quickly adapted to statements of similarity. The Bokamoso visitors were surprised that they shared similar situations with individuals around the world. The general consensus was a realization of how similar all of our stories are.

Documentary recap: A Path Appears


A Path Appears: Breaking the Cycle of Poverty

by Staff Contributor Camry Haskins

The second installment of “A Path Appears” focused on cycles of poverty in West Virginia, Haiti, and Colombia. The episode started out in Appalachia West Virginia, where Jennifer Garner served Nicholas Kristof’s tour guide in her home state. They meet poor women who are struggling to provide for their children, because of the burdens preventing people from overcoming poverty. WIC, a program for poor mothers does not cover many expensive purchases, such as diapers. Young mothers are often struggling to afford the necessities while also coming to terms with their inability to get hired. The insecurities and vulnerabilities they face as high school dropouts becomes a seemingly insurmountable wall to overcome.

Next, Kristof travels to Port-au-Prince Haiti with Alfre Woodard. Haiti is the poorest country in the hemisphere with a history of messy aid including, short term projects that never created solutions. In such a poor country, families are left with few options when they have too many mouths to feed. Many children end up in the Restavek system (comes from French words that mean stay with). Families in rural areas with too many children will send small children, usually daughters, to live with someone in the city and essentially work as a slave. The Restavek Freedom Foundation was created in order to rescue children out of those situations. Kristof and Woodard followed the process of one girl being successfully removed from her abusive Restavek family. In an effort to move away from the Restavek system, the importance of education is continuously stressed as the main mechanism for a better life.

Kristof’s final stop is in Cartegena, Colombia, where he travels with Eva Longoria where teenage pregnancy appears to be an inescapable issue. The area is plagued by poor sanitation, which cause respiratory problems. Ill health and unplanned pregnancies are two factors that prevent growth within the population. Many girls drop out of school because of the high teen pregnancy rates. Kristof and Longoria learn about Colombia’s teen pregnancy problems from a woman named Catalina. Founder of the Fundación Juan Felipe Gomez Escobar (Juanfe), Catalina mourned her own loss of a child by creating a center that helps pregnant teen women and those who have already had children. The center focuses on education for the reduction of infant mortality, it trains the teen mothers to earn their own income in a short period of time, and teaches them the tools to keep away from the many gangs and violence, which are high in the area.

This episode leaves the viewer with a some closing thoughts. Poverty and education is a zero-sum game; if you don’t invest in the front-end then you must invest in the back-end. More money should be focused on programs for poor parents, so that their children can begin life closer to the starting gate. When education and other life programs are not invested in, more money ends up funneled into prison and other programs that deal with high school dropouts.

“The road to overcome poverty is partly about something as non-numerical as hope”- Nicholas Kristof

Don’t miss the final episode of A Path Appears, airing at 10pm on PBS  Monday, February 9.

Watch the first two episodes online until February 14.

Org Spotlight: My Life My Choice

My Life My Choice


Founded in 2002, My Life My Choice is an organization fighting against the commercial sexual exploitation of young people in the greater Boston area. Led and fueled by survivors, My Life My Choice’s unique model empowers youth through engagement with a powerful community of advocates who have experienced commercial sexual exploitation personally. Envisioning a world free from the buying and selling of children, the organization works in four main survivor-led arenas:

  1. Survivor mentorship
  2. Prevention education
  3. Professional training for service providers
  4. Advocacy and leadership

In the greater Boston area alone, MLMC has trained 7000+ youth providers, mentored over 300 girls, and trained more than 7000 youth service providers. MLMC’s services for youth are inclusive, comprehensive and gender inclusive as of 2014. Last year, they launched a pilot mentorship program for 12-18 year old boys and transgender youth.  MLMC encourages young survivors to stay engaged with the organization through the MLMC Leadership Corps, fueling the next generation of powerful survivor advocates. The organization has been recognized by the US Department of Justice as a national model for sex trafficking prevention.

My Life My Choice is a member of the Justice Resource Institute and partners closely with other local and national change-makers including the SEEN Coalition (Support to End Exploitation Now)  and the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Anti Trafficking Taskforce. In 2011, MLMC was a key voice in the drafting of Massachusetts anti-trafficking legislation that assured that exploited minors specialized survives rather than jail time.

DVD and digital release of "Crossing Lines"


A powerful film on the Indian American Experience.

“Crossing Lines” is about an Indian American woman’s struggle to stay connected to India after the loss of her father.  Like most second-generation ethnic Americans, Indira Somani has struggled with identity issues, since her parents migrated to the U.S. in the 1960s.  Being born and brought up in the U.S. Indira led an American life, but at home, her world was Indian because of her father’s immense love for India and Indian culture.   This film takes you on a journey to India, where Indira visits her father’s extended family for the first time after his death.  The film explores how Indira tries to stay connected to Indian culture and her extended family, despite the loss of her father.  It is the story of how one daughter pays tribute to her father in all that he’s taught her about India, Indian culture and family.  awards

“Watch this documentary and give your kid a hug, especially if she is a girl.”
Ashfaque Swapan, India-West

To find out more about the documentary and its creators click here.

Event in New York City: Adolescent girls — The MDGs’ missing link

When: March 10 | 02:30pm – 04:30pm
Who: The International Center For Research on Women
Where: Hardin Room, Church Center United Nations (CCUN),
777 United Nations Plaza
New York, NY

The 58th session of the Commission on the Status of Women priority theme focuses on the “Challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls.” Drawing from recent research under this theme, ICRW and its partners will bring attention to the gaps within the MDGs that failed to adequately address the needs and rights of adolescent girls, even under the banner of MDG 3, on gender equality.

The panel discussion will reflect on progress against the only mention of girls in the MDGs; draw attention to key areas of need for the 250 million adolescent girls living in poverty today; question the dearth of progressive policymaking in this space and pose concrete recommendations for the future, post-2015 framework.

Recent advocacy tools and research will be showcased, including the Girl Declaration and companion report I Know. I Want. I Dream. Girls’ Insights for Building a Better World as well as new research on child marriage. As we anticipate the world’s next development framework, this event will underscore the importance of addressing the needs of adolescent girls, both as an affirmation of girls’ human rights and an indication of their centrality to the achievement of other development goals.


  • Shelby Quast,  Senior Policy Advisor, Equality Now
  • Nina Besser, Program Officer for U.S. Foreign Policy, International Women’s Health Coalition
  • Mazelle Etessami, 17 year-old student activist, CSW delegate and Member, Girls Learn, a project of the Feminist Majority Foundation

Opening Remarks and Moderated By: Lyric Thompson, Senior Policy Manager, International Center for Research on Women

GW senior to give TEDx talk

GW senior and former America’s Miss District of Columbia, Sarah Hillware will give a talk as a part of TEDx UN Plaza on September 16th. Her presentation entitled, “Harnessing the Power of Girls,” can be streamed live starting at 9am from here.  UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon is expected to speak at the event, among other innovators, philanthropists, and scholars. Hillware is the founder of Girls Health Ed, an organization that promotes and educates young students on healthcare and nutrition in underserved communities in D.C.