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  • Many times

  • I go around the world to speak,

  • and people ask me questions

  • about the challenges,

  • my moments,

  • some of my regrets.

  • 1998:

  • A single mother of four,

  • three months after the birth of my fourth child,

  • I went to do a job

  • as a research assistant.

  • I went to Northern Liberia.

  • And as part of the work,

  • the village would give you lodgings.

  • And they gave me lodging with a single mother

  • and her daughter.

  • This girl happened to be

  • the only girl in the entire village

  • who had made it

  • to the ninth grade.

  • She was the laughing stock of the community.

  • Her mother was often told by other women,

  • "You and your child

  • will die poor."

  • After two weeks of working in that village,

  • it was time to go back.

  • The mother came to me, knelt down,

  • and said, "Leymah, take my daughter.

  • I wish for her

  • to be a nurse."

  • Dirt poor, living in the home with my parents,

  • I couldn't afford to.

  • With tears in my eyes,

  • I said, "No."

  • Two months later,

  • I go to another village

  • on the same assignment

  • and they asked me to live with the village chief.

  • The women's chief of the village has this little girl,

  • fair color like me,

  • totally dirty.

  • And all day she walked around

  • only in her underwear.

  • When I asked, "Who is that?"

  • She said, "That's Wei.

  • The meaning of her name is pig.

  • Her mother died while giving birth to her,

  • and no one had any idea who her father was."

  • For two weeks, she became my companion,

  • slept with me.

  • I bought her used clothes

  • and bought her her first doll.

  • The night before I left,

  • she came to the room

  • and said, "Leymah, don't leave me here.

  • I wish to go with you.

  • I wish to go to school."

  • Dirt poor, no money,

  • living with my parents,

  • I again said, "No."

  • Two months later,

  • both of those villages fell into another war.

  • Till today, I have no idea

  • where those two girls are.

  • Fast-forward, 2004:

  • In the peak of our activism,

  • the minister of Gender Liberia called me

  • and said, "Leymah, I have a nine-year-old for you.

  • I want you to bring her home

  • because we don't have safe homes."

  • The story of this little girl:

  • She had been raped

  • by her paternal grandfather

  • every day for six months.

  • She came to me bloated,

  • very pale.

  • Every night I'd come from work and lie on the cold floor.

  • She'd lie beside me

  • and say, "Auntie, I wish to be well.

  • I wish to go to school."

  • 2010:

  • A young woman stands before President Sirleaf

  • and gives her testimony

  • of how she and her siblings live together,

  • their father and mother died during the war.

  • She's 19; her dream is to go to college

  • to be able to support them.

  • She's highly athletic.

  • One of the things that happens

  • is that she applies for a scholarship.

  • Full scholarship. She gets it.

  • Her dream of going to school,

  • her wish of being educated,

  • is finally here.

  • She goes to school on the first day.

  • The director of sports

  • who's responsible for getting her into the program

  • asks her to come out of class.

  • And for the next three years,

  • her fate will be

  • having sex with him every day,

  • as a favor for getting her in school.

  • Globally, we have policies,

  • international instruments,

  • work leaders.

  • Great people have made commitments --

  • we will protect our children

  • from want and from fear.

  • The U.N. has the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

  • Countries like America, we've heard things like No Child Left Behind.

  • Other countries come with different things.

  • There is a Millennium Development called Three

  • that focuses on girls.

  • All of these great works by great people

  • aimed at getting young people

  • to where we want to get them globally,

  • I think, has failed.

  • In Liberia, for example,

  • the teenage pregnancy rate

  • is three to every 10 girls.

  • Teen prostitution is at its peak.

  • In one community, we're told,

  • you wake up in the morning

  • and see used condoms like used chewing gum paper.

  • Girls as young as 12 being prostituted

  • for less than a dollar a night.

  • It's disheartening, it's sad.

  • And then someone asked me,

  • just before my TEDTalk, a few days ago,

  • "So where is the hope?"

  • Several years ago, a few friends of mine

  • decided we needed to bridge the disconnect

  • between our generation

  • and the generation of young women.

  • It's not enough to say

  • you have two Nobel laureates from the Republic of Liberia

  • when your girls' kids are totally out there

  • and no hope, or seemingly no hope.

  • We created a space

  • called the Young Girls Transformative Project.

  • We go into rural communities

  • and all we do, like has been done in this room,

  • is create the space.

  • When these girls sit,

  • you unlock intelligence,

  • you unlock passion,

  • you unlock commitment,

  • you unlock focus,

  • you unlock great leaders.

  • Today, we've worked with over 300.

  • And some of those girls

  • who walked in the room very shy

  • have taken bold steps, as young mothers,

  • to go out there and advocate

  • for the rights of other young women.

  • One young woman I met,

  • teen mother of four,

  • never thought about finishing high school,

  • graduated successfully;

  • never thought about going to college,

  • enrolled in college.

  • One day she said to me,

  • "My wish is to finish college

  • and be able to support my children."

  • She's at a place where she can't find money

  • to go to school.

  • She sells water, sells soft drinks

  • and sells recharge cards for cellphones.

  • And you would think she would take that money

  • and put it back into her education.

  • Juanita is her name.

  • She takes that money

  • and finds single mothers in her community

  • to send back to school.

  • Says, "Leymah, my wish

  • is to be educated.

  • And if I can't be educated,

  • when I see some of my sisters being educated,

  • my wish has been fulfilled.

  • I wish for a better life.

  • I wish for food for my children.

  • I wish that sexual abuse and exploitation in schools would stop."

  • This is the dream of the African girl.

  • Several years ago,

  • there was one African girl.

  • This girl had a son

  • who wished for a piece of doughnut

  • because he was extremely hungry.

  • Angry, frustrated,

  • really upset

  • about the state of her society

  • and the state of her children,

  • this young girl started a movement,

  • a movement of ordinary women

  • banding together

  • to build peace.

  • I will fulfill the wish.

  • This is another African girl's wish.

  • I failed to fulfill the wish of those two girls.

  • I failed to do this.

  • These were the things that were going through the head of this other young woman --

  • I failed, I failed, I failed.

  • So I will do this.

  • Women came out,

  • protested a brutal dictator,

  • fearlessly spoke.

  • Not only did the wish of a piece of doughnut come true,

  • the wish of peace came true.

  • This young woman

  • wished also to go to school.

  • She went to school.

  • This young woman wished for other things to happen,

  • it happened for her.

  • Today, this young woman is me,

  • a Nobel laureate.

  • I'm now on a journey

  • to fulfill the wish,

  • in my tiny capacity,

  • of little African girls --

  • the wish of being educated.

  • We set up a foundation.

  • We're giving full four-year scholarships

  • to girls from villages that we see with potential.

  • I don't have much to ask of you.

  • I've also been to places in this U.S.,

  • and I know that girls in this country

  • also have wishes,

  • a wish for a better life somewhere in the Bronx,

  • a wish for a better life

  • somewhere in downtown L.A.,

  • a wish for a better life somewhere in Texas,

  • a wish for a better life somewhere in New York,

  • a wish for a better life

  • somewhere in New Jersey.

  • Will you journey with me

  • to help that girl,

  • be it an African girl or an American girl

  • or a Japanese girl,

  • fulfill her wish,

  • fulfill her dream,

  • achieve that dream?

  • Because all of these

  • great innovators and inventors

  • that we've talked to and seen

  • over the last few days

  • are also sitting in tiny corners

  • in different parts of the world,

  • and all they're asking us to do

  • is create that space

  • to unlock the intelligence,

  • unlock the passion,

  • unlock all of the great things

  • that they hold within themselves.

  • Let's journey together. Let's journey together.

  • Thank you.

  • (Applause)

  • Chris Anderson: Thank you so much.

  • Right now in Liberia,

  • what do you see

  • as the main issue that troubles you?

  • LG: I've been asked to lead

  • the Liberian Reconciliation Initiative.

  • As part of my work,

  • I'm doing these tours

  • in different villages and towns --

  • 13, 15 hours on dirt roads --

  • and there is no community that I've gone into

  • that I haven't seen intelligent girls.