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Here and Now

Have you ever thought, 'what if I were born in another country'? Or 'what if I were born in a different era'?

When I was sixteen I was diagnosed with a life-threatening blood cancer. Surviving brutal chemotherapy left me evaluating what I had achieved in my short life. It crossed my mind more than once that it was lucky I was in Australia, in the 21st century. Though now in complete remission, I realise that if I had been born in a poverty stricken corner of the world I would have died a painful death at only sixteen. Since then I have been determined to make the most of health and strength and use my life to change the world for the better.

Since I was five I have been a Girl Guide. This worldwide organisation specialises in enabling girls and young women to grow into confident, self-respecting, responsible community members. Through Girl Guides I learned the key to effective advocacy is to speak out, educate people about the issues and take action.

I attended a school with a strong Service Learning program. This showed me the power I had, both as a woman and as a young person. I was the youngest delegate at the first National Service Learning Conference, yet I was chosen to represent the youth stream.

Through the "learning by doing" approach provided by Service Learning and Girl Guides, I acquired enough skills to apply for the inaugural G(irls)20 Summit in Toronto, Canada in June 2010. The summit drew together 21 delegates aged 18-20: one girl from each G20 country and one from the African Union. The girls met to discuss and promote tangible, scalable solutions to help meet the UN Millennium Development Goals, and put girls and women front and centre with the G20 leaders. We produced a communiqué which was distributed to all G20 leaders before the G20 Economic Summit.

These experiences have led me to this point. I have a vision, I have skills and I have passion to share with others across the world.

One day women will be represented at all levels of decision making. Our job now is to ensure that women are equipped with the skills needed to take on such responsibility. In Australia there are growing numbers of women on boards of directors, partially due to the introduction of quotas. However, we are finding that there is a serious shortage of women in the executive roles that feed these positions.

We are women. We see problems and we find solutions. I hope that this network can be used to more effectively harness and stimulate the knowledge and vision of women. By reporting unfair treatment, undesirable cultural behaviours and resources that are lacking, issues are put on the global agenda. There are many solutions already in practice: we just need to find them.

I no longer ask myself 'what if...' I am here and now. What can I do to make it better?

Service Learning

G(irls)20 Summit



rukamanqui's picture

Love it!

Your voice is fresh and strong. It's inspiring to read all the wonderful things you've achieved, but more so to witness the confidence you radiate. This is what most of us women need: to see wonderful role models in our sisters so we can begin to see ourselves in the same way.

Thank you, Jane!!



Claire Leland's picture

Context-based empowerment

Hi Jane,

I really like your point about drawing on the resources available to us in our current context -- living and acting in the moment as you recognized during your illness.

Thank you for sharing your impressive list of achievements and your motivations for engaging on women and girl empowerment issues on an international scale. I checked out the G(irls)20 Summit site -- can you also post the communique you and the other delegates developed? This would be cool to see.

I agree that it is important to support women's advancement in as organizational heads/political leaders, etc. Thanks for your motivating words and for your work along these lines!

Best wishes,


Jane_Australia's picture


Hi Claire,

Thanks for your comments. I have attached the communiqué from our summit. The next G(irls)20 Summit is about to kick off so it will be interesting to see what they come up with.


Frans's picture

your story

You sound amazing - so mature, so upbeat, committed and energetic. It's very impressive that you took a difficult personal situation and turned it around not just for yourself but clearly for the benefit of others. Thanks for sharing, Fran

bmcqueen's picture

Worldwide Words

Like you, I have often thanked the powers that be that I wasn’t born in a different country or a different time. In my case, this is not because of any horrific illness, but simply because of how limited the lives of women in the past were. Thankfully, for many women, our lives now have many more opportunities. Yet there is still so much that needs to be done for women worldwide. Women like you, who continually re-focus us on the here and now, are making sure the world work is done. Thank you.

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