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“This is so cool. I have to be a part of this,” said 18-year-old Martha Zuniga, describing her reaction to learning about the UN Foundation’s Girl Up campaign.

Martha, who just graduated from Chicago Tech Academy High School in Chicago, Illinois, has served as a Teen Advisor for Girl Up over the past year. Teen Advisors are public advocates for the campaign and offer their ideas and feedback on its activities. And though they all share an enthusiasm for girls’ empowerment, each girl brings different experiences and strengths to the table.

Martha has been deeply involved in community service and women’s issues.  In addition to Girl Up, she was part of a high school club called Glamour Girls, which made regular trips to senior citizen homes to spend time with residents while giving them manicures and facials. She was also co-president of her school’s Young Women’s Leadership Society, which invited women from different professional fields to speak to members about their work experiences.

When Martha found out about Girl Up during a field trip to D.C., she immediately knew she had to get on board. She had been wanting to make a bigger difference in the world around her, but thought she needed more money before she could help. Girl Up’s work showed her new ways she could start advocating for girls around the world right away – with her time and energy – as a Teen Advisor.

One way was to raise awareness among her friends and local community about the struggles of adolescent girls in developing countries. To that end, Martha has hosted several advocacy and fundraising events in Chicago – including a fun fashion show and a meeting with her district official to inform him about Girl Up’s work.

“[The meeting] was to get Girl Up on the radar so [the government officials] know it matters to me and … to a whole lot of girls in my district,” she said.

Another way to help has been to deepen her own understanding of girls’ rights and struggles in different parts of the world. Martha said that through Girl Up, she has learned more about lack of access to education, gender-based violence and other issues facing girls her age in developing countries. Child marriage, for example, has become an important issue to her – one she wants to stop.

In addition to raising others’ awareness – and her own – on girls’ issues, Martha said another great part of Girl Up has simply been getting to know her fellow Teen Advisors.

“I feel like I gained a whole new group of friends that share the same passion as me,” she explained. “They’re just amazing people, and I definitely think I’ve become more politically aware since being a part of Girl Up.”

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