2014 marks my tenth year attending the CGI. When former US President William J. Clinton first launched the initiative back in 2005, it broke down many of the silos that existed within the development community. Policy makers, academics, and private sector leaders began to have honest discussions. Relationships began, and partnerships emerged.
The lesson here is that child marriage does not "only" affect fourteen million girls a year; the consequences are far reaching. Early and forced child marriage not only violates the universal declaration of human rights, but it also prevents us from having an inclusive and prosperous global economy. Something that even the most conservative economist or demanding shareholder can agree is bad news, indeed.
In more than two decades in the charity sector, I've been involved in a lot of campaigns about a lot of different issues. I've spent my professional life fighting for the rights of the most vulnerable children in the world and in that time we've take many strides forward in improving healthcare, sanitation and education systems. But it's rare that I've felt so optimistic about the potential for change as I do about the chance we have in the coming months and years to get it right for the world's girls.
If we can reduce the instances of forced marriage overseas, I believe the trend will be reflected here. But it will take time: and that's why, while we welcome the move to criminalise the practice on home turf, we must recognise that ending it is something that will happen over years, not overnight.
Education is something that most of us in the UK take for granted. We go to nursery as toddlers, move through primary and secondary education before deciding whether college and university are for us. Most of us even grumble about it, complaining about homework, early mornings, the lack of free time. But if we didn't have this opportunity, our lives would be completely different.
On par with the infamous speeches made by her own stated heroes, from Mahatma Gandhi to Martin Luther King, Malala voiced with all the courage and conviction of an emerging world leader the simple, harsh truths that millions of women and girls throughout the centuries have died - and continue to die - to make heard...
Of all the offerings man can give, there is none greater than the gift of joy. In my art and in my actions, I aspire to create positivity and send it throughout the world, where it may find its way to hearts in need. It is for this reason that I am so proud to announce my latest outreach operation, Ana's Children.
For me International Women's Day is an opportunity to remember some of the incredible women who have helped us win the rights we enjoy today here in the UK. Progress has been slow but this world is unrecognisable to us today, and it is hard to imagine the courage and passion of countless people that it has taken to change this status quo.
My first visit since arriving in Zambia was to a UK aid adolescent girls empowerment programme in one of the poorest neighbourhoods of the capital, Lusaka. This initiative is supporting more than 1,500 of the most vulnerable girls, providing safe spaces and mentoring to help build their confidence and life skills.
One problem is that women still think of engineering as dull and male-centric. There is a pervasive image of grease, hard hats and building sites. But our research shows that girls are prepared to engage with engineering given the right motivation. They are also interested in the relatively high salaries that can be achieved in the sector, and why not?
Tomorrow, August 23rd, British girls are likely to yet again outperform boys in GCSE results. So why as I travel around the world am I so often told that girls are either not as bright or not as interested in school as boys? Perhaps because while girls are outperforming girls in the "Global North", in Latin America and in the Caribbean, the opposite is true in many developing countries.