Anna Wiseman the Australian Delegate to the Girls20 Summit had a chat to us about her experiences at the 2014 Summit in Sydney.
Girls20 Delegates in Sydney
Can you tell us a little bit about the Girls20 Summit?
Girls20 is an organisation with a mission to economically empower girls and women. Each year the Girls20 Summit is held in the same country as the G20 and it brings together one female delegate between the age of 18-20 from each of the G20 countries, plus one representative from the African Union, MENA region, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The Girls20 Summit has two key aspects to it. The first is empowering the delegates themselves so that when they return home they have the confidence and the skills to start their own social profit organisation or assist an existing organisation. The delegates are provided with four days of skills workshops on areas such as financial literacy, media and communication skills, advocacy, leadership and many more. The public summit is then held which runs for two days and combines various different panel discussions. It is a great opportunity for the delegates to learn from experts on the issues that are on the G20 leaders’ agenda.
The knowledge that the delegates gain from the public summit then assists the delegates to make thoughtful and practical recommendations to the G20 leaders, which is the second key aspect of the Girls20 Summit. It is the role of the delegates at the end of the Summit to create a communique which presents their recommendations to the G20 leaders on how to economically empower girls and women. The delegates concentrate on the areas that the G20 leaders have said are their key areas of focus and they come to them with ideas on how to achieve these goals by empowering girls and women.
Why did you want to be a delegate to the Girls20?
I wanted to be a delegate to the Girls20 for many reasons. I only needed to look at the Girls20 website for about 20 seconds before I realised it was something I had to be involved in. I think it is critical to open up the discussion about empowering girls and women at all levels. What drew me to the Girls20 is that they go straight to the top, to some of the most powerful individuals on this planet, the G20 leaders, and provide them with scalable solutions to empower women.
I also wanted to be a delegate to the Girls20 because they focus on how economically empowering women benefits the whole community. Empowering women isn’t about disempowering men; it is about engaging the whole community in the development process.
What was a highlight of the summit for you?
For me, the highlight of the Girls20 summit was the experience of being constantly surrounded by courageous, inspirational, confident and interesting individuals. The ability to learn from the other delegates and share ideas with them was incredibly exciting. I think the ability to share stories and experiences with other young women and professionals is a wonderful aspect of the Girls20 as it enabled the delegates to grow and see the potential in themselves to make a difference. Simply seeing that there are so many other like-minded people out there, of all ages and from all communities, who are working towards creating a more inclusive global society for us all, gave me a lot of hope.
You got to meet some amazing an inspirational people at the Summit, can you share with us your favourite ‘pearl of wisdom’?
I came across a phrase during Girls20 that I had never heard before and that was ‘intrapreneurship’. Intrapreneurship involves being innovative and creating change from within an organisation. While entrepreneurship is often depicted as a risky venture that only very few individuals attempt, the idea of intrapreneurship struck me as something that everyone can identify with. I think the concept of intrapreneurship is powerful as it shows how everyone can make a positive change in whatever role we are engaged in.
Anna Wiseman Presenting the Girls20 Communique to Josh Frydenberg
You got to deliver the Girls20 Summit Communique to Josh Frydenberg, Parliamentary Secretary to Prime Minister Abbott, what was that like?
Delivering the Girls20 Summit Communique to Prime Minister Abbott’s Parliamentary Secretary, Josh Frydenberg, was an incredibly positive experience. It was very encouraging to have active recognition and acknowledgement from the Australian parliament that economically empowering girls and women needs to be on the G20 agenda if the leaders are serious about achieving their growth target and developing their countries. I think this recognition is critically important as Australia has the capacity to lead the world in gender equality yet we still have a lot of work to do.
What advice would you give to another young woman thinking of applying to be a Girls20 delegate?
Go for it! If you are passionate about the economic empowerment of girls and women then don’t hesitate, your passion and ideas can make an incredible difference! I almost didn’t apply to be a delegate when I saw that only one girl was chosen from each country because I thought I wouldn’t be good enough, but what the Summit taught me was the importance of backing yourself and putting yourself out there.
You’ve volunteered in Cambodia and Kenya, can you tell us a bit about those experiences and how they’ve sparked your passion for social justice?
My Girls20 journey really began in Cambodia in 2011. I was part of a volunteer project that was focussed on improving the English language skills of high school students in rural Cambodia. My time there opened my eyes up to the varying levels of opportunity that young girls have access to around the world. It made me realise that I wanted to use the education I had been so fortunate to receive to work towards a world in which every girl can be educated and pursue a life of their choosing, rather than one that they are forced to lead.
A year later I went on a similar volunteer project that involved the construction of a primary school classroom in rural Kenya. While I was there the team I was working with visited a school that had been established by a local Kenyan woman. The founder had to overcome many different social and legal barriers to establish the school because she was a woman but had successfully done so. The school was educating hundreds of girls who would otherwise either have no education or have to travel for many hours to the next closest school. Visiting this school reminded me of the power of individuals to change the lives of hundreds of others.
My time in Cambodia and Kenya really opened my eyes to the issues surrounding access to education around the world; however, I think it is always important to note that many individuals within Australia are also confronted with barriers that hinder their access to education.
You also volunteer with Positive Aid in Australia, an organization that empowers communities affected by HIV/AIDS, can you tell us why you are passionate about this issue?
I am very passionate about Positive Aid and the work that they do for a number of reasons. Positive Aid is an Australian based organisation but works at the grass-roots level in Kenya, providing medical care to rural communities, primarily to individuals affected by HIV/AIDS. There are various issues surrounding HIV/AIDS such as social stigma, which is often caused by a lack of knowledge and understanding, lack of accessible medical facilities and funds to obtain treatment.
I think Positive Aid is a wonderful example of a development organisation addressing these various and complex issues in a sensitive and practical way. The organisation has trained many local health workers who provide both knowledge and care to individuals affected by HIV/AIDS. They also provide transport on bikes to enable individuals to get to a hospital if need be. I am very passionate about development organisations understanding the cultural context that they are operating within. This is why I am so supportive of Positive Aid, because it is an organisation primarily run by Kenyan locals. The Australian founder of the organisation Jess Alvarez understands that the locals are the ones best equipped to make development projects effective and so the Australian base is mainly focused on raising funds to support the work that is being done on the ground in Kenya. I would like to see more development organisations taking this approach to their work.
Girls20 delegates at the summit in Sydney
You’re currently studying a Bachelor of Arts and diploma in Spanish, how do you manage to keep a balance between your study, volunteer work and social life? (And can you give us any tips?)
I think having a balanced life is the best way to be happy and successful. I think it is incredibly important to engage yourself in things you are passionate about. I am doing an arts degree because I can study subjects that fascinate me, and consequently I love university! My advice would be to seek out organisations or higher education courses that really strike a chord in your heart and mind. The best way to find out what will really engage you is to research what is out there! There will be plenty of courses or organisations that don’t appeal to you, but don’t be discouraged, there are so many opportunities out there, it’s just a matter of looking until you find one that suits you, as opposed to the one you have been told is a safe option!
My volunteer work inspires me to study hard and I study hard so that I can spend my life working in an area that I know is doing something positive for my community. For me, the two go hand in hand. There are times when study has to come first, but I know that I personally work better when I am happy and engaged with what I am doing, so volunteering and socialising are key aspects of a balanced life!
So what’s on the horizon now you’re back from the summit?
As an ambassador for the Girls20 I will continue to advocate for the economic empowerment of girls and women in my community. I will also continue to support organisations like Positive Aid and others such as 1million women, which combines my two key interests of empowering women and environmental sustainability! I am also very interested in supporting organisations that offer tutoring to migrants in Australia as I think it is very important to remember that many Australians are missing out on critical educational opportunities for reasons such as a lack of English language skills.
I’m also going to be focusing on my own studies! I want to ensure that I am enabling myself to gain the best education I can so that I can use my skills to assist those around me. It is very important not to forget about what you are doing for yourself. If you don’t give yourself the best knowledge and tools you can’t begin to help others!
You can find out more about the Girls20 Summit on their website and facebook page.