Maaza Mengiste

“That’s what passion sounds like,” New York Public Radio’s Femi Oke proclaimed Wednesday morning to an enthusiastic crowd at the Global Conference for Social Change held at the UN Plaza in New York. She was referring to 10x10 Executive Director Holly Gordon’s presentation about the project and her belief in the power of media and stories to fuel the movement for girls' education.

Oke and Gordon were accompanied on stage by 10x10 Producer Martha Adams and Karen Spencer, Director of Global Education Integration at Intel, 10x10’s Strategic Action Partner and the co-sponsor of Wednesday's event. Adams recounted stories from her 10x10 production trips about girls whom she deemed “revolutionaries in the war against discrimination.” Adams asked, “What does courage look like?” Not an easy question to answer, but the very reason why 10x10 engages artists and writers to tell remarkable stories about extraordinary girls.

Feeding into Cherie Blair’s plea for “21st-century solutions,” the conference spotlighted several initiatives that engage multi-disciplinary and cross-sector efforts to improve educational opportunities for women and girls. Conversations at the lunch table between sessions focused on the benefits of breaking through siloed development efforts and promoting partnerships. Amidst the chatter of NGO networking, a spirit of support and ideas for collaboration filled the room.

We heard about the IDP Foundation’s engagement with microfinance institutions to make educational programs in Ghana sustainable, the Cherie Blair Foundation’s innovative partnership with Google to provide a mentorship platform for women to start and grow their own businesses, and GSMA “mWomen’s” initiative to get cell phones in the hands of women across the globe. These were just a few among many innovative solutions discussed that engage new technologies and rely on strategic partnerships between the public and private sectors.

Beyond the focus on nitty-gritty strategy, the UN Plaza was filled with hope about the future for girls and women. A young girl featured in a Fundacion Pies Descalzos video rejoiced, “I have a tomorrow—a tomorrow that belongs to me,” while 10x10 NGO partner Girl Up asserted “You see a girl, we see the future.”

One powerful story told by IDP Foundation’s Vice President Liesel Pritzker—which certainly made an impression—was about a Ghanian girl who was denied admission to the school in her community for lack of funds. Refusing to be left out and left behind, she stood in the door at the edge of the classroom, peering in, gleaning every bit of education that she could from a distance. Finally, her resilience was rewarded with a scholarship. And, as Intel’s new slogan would say: She Will be a power for change.

So, what does courage look like? You tell us.