Leading and empowering girls can be quite an adventure, and February 2020 presented an exceptional opportunity for our organization to experience the truth of that statement.

One of our A Beautiful Me Ambassadors, Naomi Elliott, had the opportunity to attend the International Day of Women and Girls in Science Assembly at the United Nations Headquarters. Naomi has been a participant and teen mentor with ABMe since elementary school, and she wanted ABMe to be a part of this opportunity at the UN. Karen and I were able to make quick plans to go to New York City and share this experience with Naomi, her mom, Kathy, and some of her robotics club teammates.

Upon arriving at the UN Headquarters on the morning of the summit, we immediately had an opportunity to support and encourage the team of young women who were tasked with getting passes distributed to the guests. There are several security checkpoints required to enter the UN building, so the passes were essential. Ladies from around the world speaking in a variety of languages crowded around the volunteers. The girls had little direction and the passes were not organized well, so the volunteers were extremely frazzled. We gave lots of smiles and words of affirmation to help the team get the group organized and into the UN.

Once inside, the importance of the first day of the Assembly was beginning to sink in. We made our way to a conference room in the basement level of the building and found seats in the amphitheater-like room. Naomi and her teammates sat in a row of seats with their supporters behind them, and we were in awe of the official-looking atmosphere of the room.

The summit began with a warm welcome from Lara Beva-Shiraz, a 15-year-old from the UK, who is a Girls in Science 4 SDG’s Advocate, and we knew we were going to experience something special. Not only was the room beginning to fill up with young ladies, but they would also be leading parts of the meeting as well…we were definitely excited to see more!

The Assembly is also referred to as #February11 because February 11th is recognized as the International Day of Women and Girls in Science as a result of a resolution adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015. At the Assembly, girls, women, and men from around the world began to share their solutions and ideas for achieving equity and equality in the sciences with the hope that those achievements could lead to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals for the world established by the UN.

Pictured L-R: Lauren Clemons, Fighting PI Robotics Team; Naomi Elliott, I AM ROBOT Robotics Team; and Annaliese Germundson, Fighting PI Robotics Team.

We were challenged and impressed by the passionate pleas from such a variety of people. I must say, much of it was completely over my head, but I did my best to broaden my mind to understand what I was experiencing. The first day was long, but we all learned so much. It wasn’t hard falling asleep that night, even though we were excited to see what was in store for day #2.

On the second day of the Assembly, we were ushered to a different area in the UN building and found ourselves being welcomed into the General Assembly Hall. Stepping into that room made all of us giggle that we had been as impressed with the basement conference room the day before. The GA Hall is five times the size of the conference room and very impressive. We helped snap a lot of pictures for young ladies around the world who needed to show their families back home where they were.

Day Two was the High-Level part of the Assembly, and we were treated to a great number of speakers from large corporations and scientific organizations such as Google, Turkish Airlines, the SETI Institute, Microsoft, Genome Medical, and the Royal Academy of Science. Several of the sessions were moderated by young ladies in their teens, and there were many speeches by young women as the “Girls in Science” panels continued.

Pictured L-R: Karen Palka, Naomi Elliott, Kathy Elliott, and Jessie Wiegand in the UN General Assembly Hall.

Seeing those girls speak in that setting was one of the best examples of young women displaying confidence, poise, and professionalism that I have ever witnessed. We completed the day feeling in awe of the many wonderful and complex things that women around the world are working to solve and the inspired girls who are leading a new generation of scientists to the forefront of academic and global influence.

In the evening, while processing the experience with Naomi and her mother, we all reflected on the many things we learned. One thing kept coming up as we talked: the importance of exposing young ladies to professional sectors where women are leading well, collaborating, and supporting one another. A Beautiful Me’s mission to develop well-adjusted, confident, empowered women who positively impact their schools, community, and society throughout the United States of America and beyond is being expressed in many places. It’s an awesome mission, and we need to continue searching out opportunities like the International Day of Women & Girls in Science to show our girls how to confidently pursue their dreams and share them with others.