Rutgers-New Brunswick Students Advocate for Girls’ Rights at the United Nations

By Kristina Behr | Rutgers Today
Serena Simpkins ('21, Honors College), Emma Brushaber ('21, Law & Political Science Discovery House), and Aasha Shaik ('20, Honors College)

For girls, by girls: joining the global fight for gender equality

As the United Nations prepares to commemorate the International Day of the Girl, on October 11, three Rutgers-New Brunswick students reflected on their recent work as advocates for the rights of girls around the world.

Aasha Shaik (right), a sophomore at the Rutgers Business School and a member of the Rutgers-New Brunswick Honors College, discovered a passion for girls' rights while living and studying for a year in India after seventh grade. "Truly absorbing life there opened my eyes to injustices that summer visits with my family while I was growing up never did. Turning on the TV and hearing about acid attacks and rape was striking – to say the very, very least," she said.

Shaik, along with Rutgers-New Brunswick first-year students Serena Simpkins (left, Rutgers Business School, Honors College), and Emma Brushaber (School of Arts and Sciences, Law & Political Science Discovery House), recently graduated from the Working Group on Girls, a United Nations-affiliated coalition of more than 75 organizations dedicated to promoting girls’ rights around the world. The program helps high school-age girls become leaders, with a focus on empowering and protecting the rights of girls globally.

​All three students, acting as Girl Advocates, spent part of their high school years moderating U.N. panels, conducting research on a variety of topics related to girls' rights globally including child marriage; education for girls and the impact of poverty on girls; and writing language for policy proposals based on that research that was presented at high-profile U.N. events.

“It’s the most wonderful feeling in the world, actually being able to share my opinion with people who not only care but also might be able to do something if they agree with you,” said Brushaber, who started campaigning for girls’ rights through the Girl Scouts of America when she was 14 years old, before joining the Working Group on Girls.

“The goal is to give lawmakers and world leaders our insight as girls, and our perspective on what they can do to help better girls’ lives,” said Simpkins.

“When you have some of the most powerful people in the world genuinely considering your suggestions and opinions, it reminds you of just how important speaking up is. It reminds you that nothing can silence you - not your gender, not your race, not your age. We may have “only” been high school girls, but what we had to say was just as deserving as anyone else,” said Shaik.

Brushaber says her unique experience engaging in international affairs through the Working Group on Girls, and her choice to study political science at Rutgers University, have given her the tools to continue being a young woman leader who will make a difference in the world.

Both Simpkins and Shaik also say they’ve taken their experiences from the Working Group on Girls and plan to continue advocating for gender equality at a more grassroots level at Rutgers-New Brunswick and beyond, by potentially becoming lawmakers themselves.

FULL SOURCE: Rutgers Today | Rutgers-New Brunswick Students Advocate for Girls’ Rights at the United Nations

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