J-D student advocates for girls; helps moderate international conversation

It’s not every day a high school student gets the chance to moderate an international conversation at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City. Jamesville-DeWitt tenth-grader Aarohi Rastogi was given the once in a lifetime opportunity this fall. 

“I got to make policy makers listen to girls instead of the other way around. Usually presidents and ministers are authorities that we have to listen to but during this event they had to listen to the voices of all girls,” said Aarohi.

The 2023 Girls Speak Out was broadcasted live from New York City on Tuesday, Oct. 10. The theme was “Invest in Girls: Our Leadership and Well-Being.” This marked the 10th year of the event, which was sponsored by Permanent Missions of Canada, Peru, and Turkey; UN Women; UNICEF; and United Nations Populations Fund.

Aarohi was one of 6 girls chosen out of 1,000 applicants to moderate the discussion. Her teachers weren’t surprised. 

“Aarohi is one of the most dedicated and thoughtful students. She shows true leadership qualities in her creative thinking and deep analysis of global situations. It is clear she will do great things with her future,” said AP World History Teacher Anna Delaney. 

Aarohi spent four months collaborating with her fellow moderators in weekly Zoom calls. Because it was an event organized by girls for girls, they were given control of the topics covered.

“I was so grateful to be able to hear the voices of girls and women from all over the world. It really opened my eyes to see how much struggle girls around the world are facing and it made me want to create change even more,” said Aarohi. 

To amplify those voices, moderators read moving poems; played video messages from advocates across the globe; and shared examples of how things like inequality, mental health, lack of education, and race impact girls. 

“There are still so many challenges that girls face,” said Aarohi, “This experience has taught me that girls must stand up for themselves and others and policy makers need to be willing to provide support and resources to make an everlasting change.”

In her final reading, Aarohi shared, “In the end, conversations are just words that won’t become reality until action is taken.”

You can watch the 2023 Girls Speak Out here.