Young Finns volunteer for Plan International lobbying for the Day of the Girl
October 11th, 2012: ”I believe that on that day girls can be proud”
Some good news for a change.
There are not many Finns who can honestly say they have been influencing a decision made in the General Assembly of the United Nations - and even fewer of them under the age of 20.
Step forward, Emilia Paappanen, 16, from Helsinki and Tanja Kohvakka, 18, from Mikkeli, who belong to that very select club.
Last February, they were in New York in a delegation of girls organised by the children’s charity organisation Plan International, and tasked for example with discussing the selection of an international day of girls.
On Monday, the United Nations General Assembly made a decision to designate October 11th as ”International Day of the Girl Child”, following a two-year campaign led by Plan International. The significance of the day is more or less symbolic.
The idea is to pay attention to the poor status of girls around the world, for example when it comes to matters of education.
Paappanen and Kohvakka have been the Finnish members in Plan’s child protection committee, the purpose of which is to promote children’s rights.
The delegation of a dozen girls from six countries met in New York with such figures as Rona Ambrose, Minister responsible for the Status of Women in Canada.
The idea of a special girls’ day had arisen in Plan Canada. Kohvakka says that at the meeting the Canadian delegates explained to the Minister why it is important that the girls have a special day of their own.
This meeting was no empty meet-the-people rhetoric. Canada was the country that took the initiative in founding the Day of the Girl.
”Meeting with girls from Canada and other countries worldwide made me fight in order to carry through this initiative in the United Nations”, the Canadian news release service CNW quoted Ambrose as saying on Monday.
Paappanen said that she was informed of the matter when she was having lunch at the Kallio Upper Secondary School of Performing Arts on Tuesday.
”Plan International’s coordinator called me, announcing that our goal had been achieved. We received thank-you letters by email. It was a delightful surprise”, Paappanen notes.
”I am proud of having been given the opportunity to be involved. I could influence the matter directly by speaking to Ambrose”, she adds.
Paappanen hopes that the day would remind people particularly of the status of girls in developing countries.
”On that day, I myself will be especially glad of the fact that I am a girl”, Paappanen continues.
”In our country, girls can go to school just like boys, which is liberal and progressive, even though we do not think about it that way”, Paappanen observes.
Volunteering for the global organisation left Kohvakka with good memories.
”It was nice as the minister was very easy to approach”, she says, adding: ”Ambrose listened to us like she meant it. I felt that good, we are really doing something here.”
The trip to New York aroused her interest in lobbying. Kohvakka is a candidate for the matriculation examination next year, and she would like to study political science.
”I would be really interested in working abroad, getting a job that has something to do with the status of girls and women”, she notes.
Paappanen thinks along the same lines.
”It would be great to work for this kind of organisation, in which one has an opportunity to see people and travel”, Paappanen concluded.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Baby girl boom marks International Women´s Day in Espoo (10.3.2011)
Plan: Day of the Girl gets final UN push