The United Nations is riveted this week on how badly our leaders are doing to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). One woman of action, a global activist I know, believes that only by empowering girls can MDGs be met. Jin In is Founding Director of 4Girls GLocal Leadership (4GGL) -- Inspiring Girls, Transforming the World.
MDGs are eight anti-poverty goals the world leaders agreed to in 2000. Unfortunately, if they stay the course, they are not achievable by their target date of 2015. Sadly, not even one.
Now, what if I told you that there is a way? In fact, this solution will advance all MDGs and help to fight extremism and war, making our own communities safer.
"This simple solution is empowering girls. This is 4GGL’s mission and this is exactly what we’re doing in Pakistan," she told me.
Jin does best when she works directly with girls and young women who she cares for so much. One such young woman is Hareem, a 19-year old college student in Karachi, Pakistan, who Jin met right before the catastrophic flood. Jin shared Hareem's poignant story with me:
Hareem came to me, not complaining about what’s not right in Pakistan -- but instead, wanting to build her skills to make it better. Then, a great tragedy struck her country, putting her to the test. Pakistan was hit by -- and is still suffering with -- the worst flood in its history, affecting over 21 million people.
I’ve been mentoring and guiding Hareem for her to help the flood victims. To date, she has carefully assessed the needs of 3,600 displaced people, focusing on mothers and children barely surviving in one camp.
Now, we are creating the first Young Women’s Leadership Summit in Hyderabad, Pakistan, to build the leadership skills of 100-150 Pakistan’s young women -- not only to help the flood victims, but also for the long-term work that their communities need. This is the one specific way to achieve the MDGs. This is the way to work against extremism.
MDGs, Jin believes, are not just for "them." They are goals -- the same life we want for ourselves -- including basic education, health care, and decent living wages.
Jin launched 4GGL social change movement to value and invest in the world’s poorest girls. 4GGL thinks globally and acts locally, thus "glocal." Their mission is to ignite, develop, and promote girls’ leadership -- locally, in poor communities, to advance gender equity, globally. They target critical areas around the world where gender equity is vital, not only for sustainable economic development, but also for social stability.
Is Jin courageous enough to rise to such an incredible challenge?
A career Foreign Service Officer with 35 years of experience in diplomacy believes so:
I am keenly aware of those rare individuals who make the world a better place by looking beyond what traditional diplomats see and do. Unwavering commitment is the bedrock for such efforts, but it must be informed by such crucial intangibles as global awareness and an instinctive understanding of individuality and diversity.
Two additional prerequisites are: an insatiable thirst for the complex dynamics of international affairs, and a grand vision sometimes lacking in policy wonks, but which is necessary to bring people of different cultures, ethnicities, and religions together.
Jin is this individual and one such country where her work is urgently needed is Pakistan, where I served as the Public Affairs Officer for the U.S. Embassy from 1989-92. Back then it was a feudal country, corrupt, dysfunctional, but with a thin overlay of mostly Western-oriented leaders who held off the extremists. Today it is still all of those, plus much more dangerous and fighting a full-bore homegrown insurgency.
Although people close to Jin advised her against going to Pakistan, she saw a chance to bridge relationships between the U.S. and the Islamic world. She is articulate and experienced as a public speaker, and has a remarkable ability to communicate a point of view clearly and defend it calmly and logically, with understanding of her interlocutor’s viewpoint as well.
Deploying these skills, she delivered powerful messages at girls’ schools, universities and at the National Youth Summit in Islamabad with government ministries. Her message was covered by national newspapers and she was interviewed on TV. The results were partnerships to develop girls’ leadership for 50,000 girls in school, with the potential to reach 100,000 girls not schooled.
Jin confessed there were times when her courage was tested in Pakistan. The theater where she attended a global music festival was bombed the evening after she was there. She noted, even the local people are paralyzed when there’s a bombing and many live in fear of the Taliban every single day.
Jin believes this is precisely why 4GGL can have a profound and long-lasting impact there.
She painted the situation at hand, "Imagine a poor country where nearly two third of the population is under 25 years old and they are adding additional 1 million babies every three months. By 2050, this country will have about as many people as the United States. However, half of their youth population – girls – are repressed, marginalized, and many, not allowed to be educated. This depressed picture is further aggravated by the rise of local terrorist groups recruiting thousands of boys and young men who are poor and hungry.
This is Pakistan. You can see why girls’ leadership development is urgently needed there, now. It is the solution to poverty and extremism. And if I need to work with the Taliban, I will. It’s what visions are all about – seeing the impossible possible and having the courage and faith to do whatever it takes."
The diplomat further explained why 4GGL is needed, today, around the world:
Jin often mentions Nicholas Kristof’s observation that the moral challenge of our times is the brutality inflicted on women and girls around the globe. I know no one more firmly grounded in its sobering realities than Jin. She has witnessed discrimination against girls and women in the diverse societies where she has lived and worked.
She also has her own experience of becoming poor overnight when she lost her father as a baby in South Korea just because she was a girl. Therefore, Jin has become a committed global citizen working through 4GGL for the fight for equality and opportunity for girls and young women. 4GGL will not only enrich individual lives but bring profound change to our world.
As the U.N. debates how humanity must do better in the next five years to reach the Millennium Development Goals, I know that 4GGL will actually do the work - empowering girls and young women - to help us get there. I support Jin and her leadership of 4Girls GLocal Leadership (4GGL) -- Inspiring Girls, Transforming the World -- as a specific action to achieve our global goals.
Join me in the 4GGL Movement to help us reach our collective goals by clicking here.
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