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A girl from Tanzania, and what she told President Obama

Minutes ago, in a soaring speech, President Barack Obama nailed what the new Global Goals are all about: a framework to raise human dignity and secure a better future, as well as a means by which citizens can hold leaders worldwide to account. And he identified a teenage Tanzanian girl, Eva Tolage, whose words moved him to this insight.

He spoke of Eva’s demand that leaders commit and deliver. I’ve been to Eva’s village and school in Mlowa district, in remote rural Tanzania. I was taken there by our brilliant partners, Restless Development, last year. Eva was born in the year 2000 at the start of a new millennium—and when she’s twice the age she is now, in 2030, the Global Goals will be due.


Eva Tolage, 14, poses for a portrait at Malinzanga Primary School in Malinzanga, Tanzania, on December 15, 2014. Photo by Daniel Hayduk

On the 1st of January this year, she wrote to all ONE members demanding we do more to help beat extreme poverty in her village and every place like it around the world, by 2030. She didn’t rest there and went on to pen an appeal to the President. He just answered.

Eva wrote about the challenge of hunger, water , electricity, corruption, and climate change. She wrote about the challenges of being a girl. As Melinda Gates wrote recently, and as the First Lady said last night, Poverty is Sexist . Eva basically summarised the Sustainable Development Goals.

In all the high flying meetings and side summits and concerts around New York this week, and in Paris at the climate talks later this year, let’s remember this: We work for Eva.

When she can walk into the local government officials office and ask, in her polite but firm fashion, what happened to the money promised to her village for education, health care , irrigation, electrification, water sanitation, and when her ideas about what needs to happen are heard, the world will accelerate towards a better, safer state.

This is how the African-owned Marshall plan that Bono just wrote about will be delivered. This is how the demands of Pope Francis and Malala Yousafzai will in fact be realized, or not. When we truly and practically stand with strong girls and women like Eva, as one, and help them demand that the services and opportunities due them are delivered, the world will tilt on its axis.

Eva, right, at Malinzanga Primary School with Ziada (left) and Jane (center). Photo by Daniel Hayduk

Eva, right, at Malinzanga Primary School with Ziada (left) and Jane (center). Photo by Daniel Hayduk

There’s a great team gathering for these global goals. It’s inspiring to be a small part of it. But goals are only great if they can be scored. Measured. Counted. By the Evas of this world. We must now turn these goals into a smart citizens scorecard as soon as possible, so Eva and her friends lead the lives of opportunity and dignity everyone deserves to lead.

In his speech to the United Nations today, President Obama said:

“And so today I say to Eva and hundreds of millions like you, we see you. We hear you. I’ve read your letter and we commit ourselves as nations as ONE world to the urgent work that must be done.”

Thank you for reading Eva’s letter, Mr. President.