Queen Rania's Speech at Women in the World: Stories and Solutions Global Summit - NY, USA

March 13, 2010

Thank you, Katie.

Who’s seen Tim Burton’s blockbuster, Alice in Wonderland?

Well, just like the Mad Hatter, I have a riddle for you…

What do 600 million girls and Alice in Wonderland have in common?

Answer. They’ve all tumbled down a rabbit hole…into a dark tunnel … confronted by barriers …locked doors … feeling unsure… out of place. Lost in a world where there is no sense, where nonsense prevails.

Nonsense like girls walking 10 kilometers every day on empty stomachs to find water for their families…

Nonsense like girls denied the chance to go to school for a lifetime of cooking, cleaning and childcare…

Nonsense like girls thrust into marriages they’re too young to understand, falling pregnant, only to bury the tiny bodies of newborns.

Sadly, this is not an imaginary place. Waking up will not return these little girls to the land of opportunity and equality we are fortunate to inhabit.

For over 600 million girls around the world, this nonsensical reality is their daily reality.…where the four walls of inequality, injustice, indignity, and ignorance close in around them … limiting their potential at a time when it should be limitless.

And yet, we know that girls are the most influential...the most transformational…the most untapped currency in our world today…

Just what will it take to unleash this girl power? Cake that says “eat me”? A potion that says “drink me”?

No. Just a school that says, “enter me” …and a global community that says, “we care.”

An education is what it will take. Opening classrooms for the 80 million out-of-school girls burdened by gender bias and social pressure is what it will take.

80 million. That’s the equivalent to almost two and a half Canadas! All that potential. Lost.

But when a girl goes to high school, she’s more likely to find productive, well-paid work……more likely to delay childbirth and the emotional pressure of motherhood……more likely to raise strong, healthy, educated children…

When a girl goes to high school, she’s equipped and empowered and inspired to break the cycle of poverty that shackles her to hopelessness.

And when you break the cycle of poverty, you spark a cycle of prosperity. You raise nations.

Listen to this: increasing the share of women with secondary education by 1%, increases a country’s annual per capita income growth by an average of 0.3%. For a country like India, that amounts to nearly $3.6 billion a year.

Girls’ education. It makes social sense. It makes financial sense. But it’s not yet common sense.

And that’s frustrating because the issues facing girls and women are not new; talking about them isn’t new; lamenting their lack of progress isn’t new…

But the way we approach them is. That’s where we can make a difference.

Because today, we have a toolbox of new technologies and social media innovations altering the media landscape. Phones and Facebook… blogs and widgets…Twitter and texting. We can reach every corner of the world - from African villages to the US Congress. And we can rally the masses around causes we care about.

In the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake, we saw mobile phone technology not only raise money, but rescue survivors and reconnect loved ones.

Or Facebook’s “Causes,” which has 20 million users supporting issues from breast cancer research to preventing child abuse.

Social networks can help solve social problems.

So, if we can unite…if we can leverage synergies between the worlds of media, social online networks, and NGOs working with girls, we can do something that’s never been done before.

We can make girls’ voices and videos of their lives go viral…we can be their mouthpieces and take their message to the masses…we can push politicians to prioritize girls in global politics.

Our successes can inspire hope; our failures can instigate action.

And we’re off to a great start, thanks to Tina’s vision. The Daily Beast’s Giving Beast is revealing gender injustices globally to a viewership of millions every day…the partnership with the United Nations Foundation is spotlighting the excellent work of Girl Up.

We are building momentum. We’re just not doing it fast enough.

We’re not even at the tipping point when it comes to awareness of girls’ issues, so our efforts need to be smarter…more creative…more determined.
So, let’s do what women do best.
Let’s translate words into actions.
Let’s turn passions into progress.
Let’s text, type and tweet ‘til we see positive change!

And, on behalf of 600 million girls stumbling through life, let’s think like Alice who, after a while, believed, “that very few things indeed were really impossible."

Thank you very much.