by Emily Fahey
Olivia Pecora: girl delegate at the UN Commission on the Status of Women Conference, President of the Girls Learn International Junior Board, youth speaker at Kean University’s Annual Conference on Human Rights, President of the Westfield chapter of GLI and high school senior. Not many 18 years old can lay claim to so many prestigious titles.
Pecora’s accomplishments stem from her involvement with GLI. According to girlslearninternational.net, "GLI gives American students a voice for universal girls’ education." The organization partners US schools with ones in countries where girls still aren’t given equal opportunities to attend school or receive adequate educations.
Pecora said she’s been involved with GLI for seven years. "GLI has really shaped who I am. It has opened so many doors for me to learn and educate others." Most notably and recently, Pecora was invited to attend the UN Commission and speak at Kean University’s Annual Conference on Human Rights.
According to Pecora, she was the youngest speaker at Kean’s human rights conference. She addressed her work with GLI and the importance of youth involvement in organizations.
Other activists at the conference include Sheryl WuDunn, the first Asian-American Pulitzer Prize winning reporter, and Dr. Tererai Trent, a self-educated advocate for girls education rights and Oprah’s favorite interviewee, according to oprah.com.
Trent taught herself how to read and write at home in Zimbabwe after being denied an education from the local school which only educated boys. Since then, she has obtained a Ph.D. and went on to advocate for girls education rights worldwide, according to oprah.com.
Said Pecora: "I could not believe that I was being recognized with the other women that were there.… [Trent] told me that she was proud to see a young girl so passionate about a cause."
Through her experiences with GLI, she has learned of the injustices that millions of girls face worldwide. Said Pecora: "They face obstacles that I, as a girl living in Westfield, could never fathom.... The more I learned, the more I wanted to help."
This dedication explains why the UN invited her to be a GLI Girl Delegate at the Commission, with a focus on Rural Women. Pecora was selected from 1,250 GLI girls nationwide, according to girlslearninternational.net.
Pecora said her role in the conference was to educate nine girls from rural villages in Africa and Asia about how to use social media. Additionally, she helped the girls write their life stories, which included first-hand accounts of child marriage, violence and discrimintation.
Pecora intends to further her work with human rights after high school. Said Pecora: "In college, I plan on majoring in Women’s Studies…. I would like to stay involved in organizations that aim to eradicate human rights violations and continue advocating for the right to an education."
Said Pecora: "GLI has taught to be confident when I am speaking about this issue because of its importance to me and the global community."