Girl Up Teens Make a Difference: Exclusive Interview with Annie Gersh

By Tabby Biddle, Writer/Reporter dedicated to the empowerment of women & girls

Excerpt republished with permission from Tabby Biddle.

Annie Gersh is a Teen Advisor with Girl Up, a United Nations Foundation campaign designed to harness the energy and compassion of girls in the United States to help girls in developing countries. Annie is 13 years old and attends Marlborough School in Los Angeles. Her school is an independent all-girls school for grades 7 through 12 that is dedicated to helping young women develop self-confidence, creativity, moral decisiveness and a sense of responsibility as active global citizens. Annie is one of 16 young women from around the country that was chosen by the United Nations Foundation to serve as a Teen Advisorfor the Girl Up campaign.

I had the pleasure of meeting Annie this fall at The Feminine Light in the Middle East Conference in Los Angeles, where I moderated a panel called “Girls Make a Difference.” Annie was on the panel and spoke about the impact of social media and how girls her age can make a difference in the Middle East, and for that matter, in the world.

What follows is my recent interview with Annie.

Tabby Biddle: Why do you think girls’ leadership is so important for our world?

Annie Gersh: Girls’ leadership is important because girls are half of the world’s population. When they are given the opportunity to be educated, they strive to make a difference in their communities and change the paths their families will take in the future. There are a few statistics that stand out to me: Girls reinvest 90 percent of what they make back into their families as opposed to men who reinvest only 30 to 40 percent; when a girl is educated she is more likely to marry later, have fewer children, and educate her children; and a child born to an educated mother is 50 percent more likely to reach the age of five.

It’s important that girls here in the U.S. take a stand and raise awareness for their counterparts in developing countries because we all have the same dreams and aspirations. We all desire to go to college, have productive jobs, and raise healthy families. Our only difference is the place that we were born. It’s not fair that a girl who is born in the rural areas of Ethiopia or the slums of Malawi doesn’t have the same chance to fulfill her dreams and aspirations.

TB: As a Teen Advisor, you are a leader in the Girl Up community. Tell me about some of the ways you have expressed your leadership.

AG: Since my tenure began with Girl Up in September, I’ve already taken action in a variety of ways. I helped form a Girl Up club at my school, Marlborough. We engage girls at our school by learning about the issues and doing activities – such as encouraging them to write letters to girls in Malawi, Ethiopia, Guatemala, and Liberia during lunchtime. [These are the four countries where Girl Up is currently engaged.]

Additionally, I attended a private event and spoke to about 80 elementary school girls about the campaign and how young girls can get involved. I also spoke at a conference called The Feminine Light in the Middle East, which was hosted by the Institute of Women’s Enlightenment. I participated on a panel and my role was to focus on how girls can make a difference in the Middle East and how social media has an impact.

This fall I had the opportunity to plan my own fundraiser for Girl Up. I came up with the idea for the event and then planned, organized, and sold tickets to teens to attend a private movie screening of a recently released film. The evening was hosted by one of the young actors on the hit TV show “Glee.” I had solicited a popular local clothing store to donate several items that were raffled off to raise additional funds. Girls enjoyed the film, learned facts about the campaign and wrote letters to their counterparts. I was excited to hold my first fundraiser and to have it be a success. We raised over $800.

TB: Congratulations on the success of your fundraiser. Can you explain what happens to the money once it is raised?

AG: The way it works is that Girl Up raises funds to support UN Foundation programs on the ground to take them to scale in the four countries [Malawi, Ethiopia, Guatemala and Liberia]. There are already programs there established through groups like UNICEF and UNESCO. We raise the funds to take them to scale – to make them bigger, better, and to make sure that they have all the resources they need.

Read the full interview on Huffington Post!

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