Nominations Open for Girl Up Teen Advisors

May 29, 2013, 11:00 AM

Sesuagno Mola of Ethiopia, married at five, never went to school and had her first child at 14. More children would have followed in quick succession, but Sesuagno got involved with a program in her town run by Girl Up developed by the UN Foundation that empowers young girls to create a life for themselves and their families well beyond poverty and illiteracy.

In Sesuagno’s case, she joined a program developed to help teach literacy, and provide information about family planning, gardening and life skills to help reduce food contamination.

Through the program, Sesuagno learned to build shelves to keep her family’s food off the floor, built a stove that sends the smoke out of the house instead of into her lungs—a cause of pneumonia and death for thousands of girls and women in the developing world—and jointly decided with her husband, because of her time in the program, that they would wait to have their next child.

“What we support are comprehensive services for adolescent services for girls to help improve access to health services, education and safe spaces,” says Andrea Austin, a spokesperson for the UN Foundation.

The effort empowers their U.S. counterparts as well. Funds for the program are raised in part through awareness and fundraising campaigns developed during monthly meetings of teen advisors in grades 7-12 who are nominated by adults for their commitment and passion, and serve for a year. Nominations for next year’s teen advisor group, which runs September through August 2013, close May 31.

Says Austin, “Girl Up envisions a world where all girls, no matter where they live, have the opportunity to become educated, healthy, safe, counted and positioned to be the next generation of leaders.”

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.