MHS' Girl Up Club Raises Awareness for Global Issues
Club is part of the United Nations initiative to get American teens to lead the way to help the plight of adolescent girls around the world.
While only a junior in high school, Saachi Gupta is already a citizen of the world. She has lived in several countries and, at an early age was struck by the differences in the ways girls and women are treated in different parts of the world.
A year ago, while reading about the about the Vital Voices, Women in the World Summit, she began reading more and more about empowering women worldwid, including the book Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristoff and his wife and colleague at the New York Times, Sheryl WuDunn.
“That was so eye opening,” she said. "It is very powerful."
It was that book and research that led her to attend a Girl Up event at the United Nations in New York last September and to ultimately start the UN-affiliated club at Millburn High School.
“For me, starting Millburn Girl Up was a culmination and the next logical step in working on an issue that I have cared about for as long as I can remember,” she said. “I decided to start Girl Up because I thought that it would be a way to raise awareness in a relatable way, and would be a way to tangibly help girls my age.”
While Girl Up focuses on girls, Gupta likes to remind people that by focusing on girls, everyone benefits.
“The most striking example is that (in the developing world) 90 percent of a woman’s income goes back to her community and family, whereas that number is only 30 percent for a man’s income,” she said. “Also, only two cents of every development dollar goes towards programs for women and girls. Since no one else is focusing on women and girls, someone has to!”
The club started with a handful of people and quickly grew to more than 30 members, including both young women and men at Millburn High School.
"In Millburn High School, there is a wide-range of clubs that help underprivileged countries. I decided to join Girl Up because this club focuses on girls in Third World Countries,” said Alyssa Ahn. “This organization allows for girls to break the cycle of poverty that exists and to pursue their dreams. I feel that this is important because to ameliorate the situation, we should help allow girls to live in better conditions and to be educated. Therefore, these girls can lead a life with a brighter future."
The club has held several fundraisers including selling “exam essentials” packs during midterms with sharpened pencils, a pen and a Heshey’s kiss, as well as a bake sale and this week’s fundraiser at Red Mango, where 20 percent of the proceeds went to the United Nation’s Girl Up initiative.
"I like that we have found ways to help that are also enjoyable and build a sense of community,” said Steven Yaffe, Press Secretary for the club.
The fundraisers were also a way to raise awareness for the issues, Gupta said.
“I’m proud of what Girl Up has been able to so far,” she said.
Other members agree and are happy they’ve found a way to help those often overlooked.
"People often assume that there is equal distribution of funds among other charities, but this isn't always the case, so Girl Up helps young women in particular,” said April Liu, the club’s underclassmen liaison. “I joined Girl Up because it seemed like a really important issue that wasn't discussed a lot and I wanted to help raise awareness about it."
Michelle Waters, who maintains the club's website, said, "It is important to me that girls all over the world are given the opportunities and tools they need to succeed, and Girl Up works to give them exactly that."