By Megan Martin
Senior Amy Gong Liu recently went to the United Nations (UN) to represent the club Girl Up and speak on behalf of the rights of women around the world.
Liu started the club Girl Up at Alameda High School during her junior year, and is currently president. Girl Up is a campaign under the United Nations foundation in which the participants in the club raise money to support UN programs for girls in developing countries. This particular club focuses on raising money for four specific countries: Liberia, Guatemala, Ethiopia and Malawi. Liu explains that the UN has decided to focus their fundraising efforts on these specific countries because the UN has “designated that those countries are in special need of care for girls just because of their specific conditions within their countries.”
According to Liu, the club is not only for raising money to support the rights of women in developing countries, but is also a combination of feminism and activism. This club teaches and educates youth about the status of some women around the world, and what being a feminist truly means: advocating for women’s issues worldwide.
When Liu first started this club at Alameda High School, she witnessed almost immediate backlash from the student body. Students would say things like “Girl up, guy down,” but Liu says she never let this get to her. Because Liu knew that with this club she was pushing people outside of the boundaries of what was normal, she was prepared to deal with this backlash.
Liu explains that “with girls’ rights, I think one of the most important things is to always challenge the traditional, the always have-beens, and always push for solutions that are more in the future: what can we do for girls and women that reflect the changing times of today? That kind of movement, those kind of dissections, start with the student body that I am based in.”
But Liu is not just the president of the Alameda High club Girl Up, she also serves at a national level. She and a group of 18 girls from around the United States, (and one from Belize), meet biannually and represent the club Girl Up from around the United States. They are part of what is called the Teen Advisory board. These 19 young women represent the ideas and demands of women across the United States.
The United Nations is a conglomeration of countries in which each country sends a delegate to represent their financial and peacekeeping interests. After WWII, the UN was made to serve as a symbol of goodwill and peace. The UN’s programs have been implemented to help countries with the adversity and problems that they face. Liu explains that there is a lot of clash within the UN, but “girl rights has been one of the most unanimously agreed upon issues that leaders and delegates have seen that we need to start working towards,” Liu said.
Before Liu went to the UN in New York City, she and the other 18 girls on the Teen Advisory board got in contact through skype to “figure out a platform of what we were going to say to present to the people coming.”
Once at the UN, these 19 met with many different people who had a similar mission: improving women’s rights throughout the world, especially in struggling countries. One leader that Liu talked with was Sarah Lake, who is the head of a charitable foundation that works to support girls who want to pursue jobs in tech. These teens also got to talk with the president of the No Ceilings foundation, started by Hillary and Bill Clinton, which works to advocate and push for American issues that affect women today such as the gender wage gap and sexual assault cases.
Liu has always been interested in the issue of girls’ and women’s rights. Coming from a background of avert discrimination towards girls and being a girl herself led Liu to have a “personal connection to the plight of what it means to be female,” she said.
Liu managed to find Girl Up through mutual friend in another club at Alameda High, Junior Statesmen of America. Liu says that finding Girl Up was like “finding my own voice in a way, but instead of just representing myself I could be able to represent girls around the world who have been through different struggles.”
Talia Soglin, a sophomore in Girl Up, says “Amy is awesome. She is very passionate and very energetic about the work she does. She is very organized, has a lot of ideas, and is passionate about women and girls in the world.”
Liu plans to continue to dedicate her life to international human rights. Liu will attend Columbia University in the fall, and is a declared Humans Rights and Political Science major. The first thing Liu wants to do when she gets to Columbia is to establish a club or organization that reflects the interests of women worldwide and fights for international feminism.
Liu explains that one of the main reasons she picked the city is because “New York is such a conglomerate of people from different cultures. You can walk down the street, you can see the United Nations basically looking back at you because there are people from so many different cultures.”
Allison Goldberg, Liu’s AP government teacher, says that Liu is “ fantastic, dynamic, engaging and engaged in the world around her. She will take NYC by storm, and it is the perfect place for her to expand on her passions for international relations and women’s rights.”
While balancing being on the Teen Advisory board and running AHS’s Girl Up club, Liu is also the captain of the water polo and swim team at AHS. In Liu’s free time, she enjoys reading, singing, and more recently she enjoys embroidering.