July Lee may be nineteen years old, but she’s already more world-wise than many people twice her age. Born in Mexico to parents who had immigrated from China, she moved to southern California at age six. Although she mostly grew up in the United States, she told me that she understands what it’s like to straddle multiple nations, cultures, languages, and identities. Now, a premed biology major at Stanford University, she learned about the G(irls)20 summit and decided to apply.
“Problems are not local,” she told me. “They transcend boundaries.” She briefly touched on oppression and discrimination that she and her family had faced in both Mexico and the United States. “I’m looking forward to hearing from all the [delegates],” she said.
Some of those other delegates included Kartika Nurhayati, from Jakarta, Indonesia, and Maria Julieta Leiva, from the Mendoza region of Argentina. Nurhayati, who wore a pink silk headscarf and had a brilliant smile, found out about G(irls)20 through TakingITGlobal, one of the summit’s partner organizations, which she works with at home. In her application essay, Nurhayati said that she considers her country’s biggest problem to be the inequality of boys and girls, which begins in the home. She explained that many Indonesians have large families, and because of limited resources the boys get the bulk of the attention. By having smaller families, she said, girls would be able to get more resources and mothers would feel less strained and overwhelmed by childcare.
Nodding in agreement, Leiva talked about her own passion. Her essay had been about domestic violence, which she feels is a widespread problem in Argentina. She believes that there are two main ways to address the issue: first, getting the government not only to make such behavior illegal but to take the problem seriously by enforcing the law and prosecuting offenders; and secondly, by building up women’s confidence and self-esteem. By encouraging these women, they become less likely to remain in hurtful situations and more likely to stand up for themselves.
Though Lee, Nurhayati, and Leiva are all just nineteen, it’s clear that, as Swan Paik pointed out, women are the world’s largest untapped resource. And these three young women are examples of just how much potential there is.