“Feminist: the person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.” The voice of Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie speaks to a crowd of 60,000 on the Great Lawn of New York City’s Central Park—women and men of all ages and races gathering for one event: the annual Global Citizen Festival.
Created in 2012, the Global Citizen Festival is an effort to end extreme poverty by 2030. Through activist efforts on their website, Global Citizen requires supporters to tweet, sign petitions, send emails, and leave voice messages to help this cause, and in exchange, they are entered into a lottery to win tickets to the music festival. In past years, the festival has welcomed top artists including Foo Fighters, Stevie Wonder, and Jay-Z, but this year the draw to attend the event was at an all time high because Beyoncé was slated to perform (other headliners included Coldplay, Ed Sheeran, and Pearl Jam).
For me, seeing Beyoncé live was a huge draw to attend the show. Of course, I tried to pay attention to the efforts of Global Citizen while I checked off each required action to join the lottery, but once I had the tickets safely in my hands, my attention to the purpose of this event dwindled. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our own lives, that we forget about the bigger picture—this show was the reward for our efforts, but it’s up to us to continue to work to help the cause throughout the year.
Beyoncé’s performance was one for the books. I can’t imagine how any person left that show Saturday night without a full ego boost, but I think that it was the words of the hosts and participating world leaders who took the time to stop by and talk to us that will stick with me. I have to commend the stage manager, or planner, or whoever was in charge of the production of this show. Putting Beyoncé’s performance before the main part of the festival was key—she gave us all that boost of energy and pride for being a woman before introducing First Lady Michelle Obama to the stage, kicking off a chain of celebrity names and speeches before we got to hear Malala Yousafzai speak (a moment that had me in tears).
Her message was powerful—the key to creating a more peaceful world is not pushing our money towards military, but to education. In countries where women have access to education, they see more peace and prosperity, she said. But that isn’t the case everywhere—Michelle Obama said that right now, there are 62 million girls out there without access to education. That’s 62 million voices that could contribute to our world, bringing peace and working to end poverty in their own countries, if we can just show our world leaders the importance of providing education to everyone. Malala echoed the importance of educating the youth of today, because they are our future.
So that’s why we need to participate in Michelle Obama’s new campaign, #62MillionGirls, because like she said, “When girls aren’t given the chance to realize their potential, the whole world loses out.” It’s Feminism at its core—these girls are denied education because of their gender, and it is time to work together to get them the same education provided to men. This isn’t a matter of men vs. women, it’s a matter of giving everyone the same chance.
How do we do this? To start, share a selfie with the hashtag #62MillionGirls along with a description of something you learned in school. Together, we can start a movement to help those 62 million girls.
I know for me, I would not be here without my education—it taught me how to be a strong, independent woman, with an awareness of how my talents can help our future. And I am very thankful for that.