Two Mercer students were recognized by the United Nations for their successes within a campus organization.
Seniors Shelsea Chilumuna and Unnati Patel traveled to Washington, D.C. in September to participate in the United Nations’ 2017 Leadership Symposium. The U.N. invited them to attend upon reviewing their application for a grant to help fund programming for their campus organization, GirlUp.
The U.N. not only awarded them the grant but also recognized them for their success in fundraising.
Chilumuna explained that GirlUp is a U.N. organization based on fundraising and advocacy for women’s rights. Worldwide chapters raise money to send back to the U.N. for distribution to programs supporting girls in target countries like Ethiopia, Guatemala, Liberia, Malawi, Uganda and India.
The students co-founded the chapter of the organization at Mercer last year. They had done the same at their high school together and decided to carry it to college.
“We didn’t see anything like GirlUp on campus,” Patel said.
The chapter’s proceeds funded a well in Guatemala last year, “so that [the girls] wouldn’t have to walk as far to get water so that they could go to school,” Chilumuna said.
GirlUp raised the proceeds for the well through various events on campus such as henna nights, penny drives and a banquet.
Although they had only operated for one academic year, Chilumuna and Patel were recognized for their contributions and were asked to give a presentation on effective fundraising at the conference to other GirlUp leaders from around the world.
“We met really powerful women in various industries, and we saw what they were doing, and they taught us a lot of tips and tricks to become a powerful leader and ally for the equal-opportunity cause,” Chilumuna said.
This year, the group hopes to focus on advocacy and emphasize female empowerment now that they said they have gotten such a strong footing.
The club leaders are celebrating the International Day of the Girl—a day meant to raise awareness for women’s rights worldwide—by hosting a different event each day for the week of Oct. 9 through Oct. 13.
They ran a lemonade stand Monday and have arranged a profit share with Margarita’s in Mercer Village for Tuesday. Wednesday they will host a banquet, Thursday a movie night showing “He Named Me Malala,” and Friday a penny drive.
Chilumuna and Patel emphasized that GirlUp is an active, open club always accepting new members to make suggestions and to help plan and carry out events.
For those who cannot commit to full membership but want to support the cause, their Facebook group and Snapchat account (@mugirlup) will keep followers up-to-date on events that they can support.
“We’re very motivated to do big things,” Chilumuna said.