I received an invitation on behalf of I AM THAT GIRL to a global summit in Washington, D.C. last week. I was joined by delegates from over 20 countries, brought together to discuss the challenges facing our world today. From infrastructure to health to entrepreneurialism and economics, we were given 72 hours of intimate discussions to provide solutions that would be presented to the White House. Not to invalidate my invitation, but as I sat across from a Zimbabwean, sipped cocktails with a rather handsome Chilean and chatted with a war survivor with shrapnel still in her body, I had to pinch myself that my little old opinion was included in this global discussion.
Few moments in my life have made me feel like my voice mattered as much as sitting in that conference room sandwiched between the Chief Technology Officer for President Obama and a gorgeous, cancer activist. I sat there in awe of my peers as the myriad of languages, accents and nuanced cultural dialects danced around my eardrums. It was the first time that my own advice resonated to my soul. A smile crept over my face at the thought that my motivational mumbo jumbo had just been used on me, and it was working.
My team was assigned to "global health," and we tackled the first challenge; what is our definition of health? Being the "girl expert," I was responsible for making sure girls from all over the world were being taken into consideration. I emphasized that emotional, spiritual and mental health are just as vital as physical health and that in general, we are doing a poor job of protecting, empowering and inspiring girls to be the best version of themselves. I suggested that a global paradigm shift is essential to teach girls to value themselves, and in doing so, teach the world how to properly treat us.
We may not be where we want to be in the world or have as many female leaders out there making sure a female perspective is integrated into the fabric of global decision-making, but what I do know is that this conference wasn’t just a win for I AM THAT GIRL; it was a win for all of us. After all, it’s in every man’s best interest that girls and women are the best version of themselves. I sat across from some of the most influential and impressive men I’ve ever met, and they listened. They sat there respectfully, validating and supporting my audacious call to action.
After several days of intellectual negotiations, capitulations and creative approaches to an endless layered onion of challenges, we delivered our finalized suggestions on how to change the world by making it better, stronger and safer for everyone. I hopped on a train that night to New York and couldn’t erase the smile. People talk about wanting to “change the world” all the time, but rarely do people take the time to really think critically, intentionally and have the guts to query, "Why can’t we be the solutions we so badly need?” We only have one life to live, so my question is what are you doing with it? It’s a cop out to say just because you’re not at a global conference you can’t make a difference. How did you treat your mom, your best friend, your brother or even complete strangers today? What I realized is that we just need to take care of each other better. This is our world and it’s up to us to leave her better then we found her.Lead image courtesy of Soulofamerica.com