(Laura Cronin is director of the New York City-based Toshiba America Foundation. In her last post, she spoke with Robert Pirani, executive director of the Governors Island Alliance, about the ongoing transformation of the 172-acre island and former military base in New York Harbor.)
For Americans of a certain age, charitable giving and the challenges facing children in developing countries usually meant a little orange cardboard box at Halloween. Of course, those UNICEF donation boxes were a kid-friendly way to raise pennies and awareness while we made our trick-or-treating rounds.
These many years later, parents and educators looking to break through the 24/7 consumerism of 'tween/teen culture and teach kids about philanthropy have more high-tech options.
One such effort is Girl Up, a campaign of the United Nations Foundation that gives American girls the opportunity to raise awareness and funds for UN programs that reach adolescent girls in other countries.
At the moment, funds raised through Girl Up provide badly needed resources for programs in Guatemala and three countries in Africa: Ethiopia, Liberia, and Malawi. In 2011, it is hoped that girls in additional countries will benefit from the program.
We learned at the UN Foundation that there are many good programs for girls globally, but few [that] are reaching 10- to 14-year olds and fewer still reaching the hardest-to-reach girls. We also learned that only two cents of every development dollar goes to efforts on behalf of girls. Adolescent girls are invisible, yet an investment in them could shift the course of all development work. Through...Girl Up, we are turning our attention, and that of American Girls, to the hardest-to-reach girls globally; they deserve nothing less.
The Girl Up Web site provides facts and figures on the UN Foundation's work in the area of women and girls, tips for girls on how to conduct their own "Girlraiser" projects, and a blog and online tools that enable aspiring fundraisers to connect with each other and to the stories of girls who are on the receiving end of UN Foundation support. For those looking for more information, Start With a Girl, a 2009 report from the Coalition for Adolescent Girls, offers a nice framework to help American girls understand how their efforts can help girls in other countries. And, of course, the widely circulated Girl Effect video does much the same thing. (Take a few minutes to check it out if you haven't already.)
Asked to comment on feedback she's received about the campaign, Kreinin was upbeat. "As I listen to girls across the U.S., I learn that they are very generous and want to help girls globally. Girl Up gives them this opportunity; girls from all walks of life are getting involved, being creative, and raising funds."
Girl Up is doing great work in places where girls too often are taken for granted. So if you're looking for a good cause with which to inspire a teenager (and her BFFs!) this holiday season, tell her about Girl Up. And feel free to share any stories you have about girls who are getting involved, being creative, and making a difference in their communities.
-- Laura Cronin