Out of hundreds of applicants, UTM student Estelle Ah-Kiow was selected to represent Canada at the fifth G(irls)20 Summit held on August 25 and 26 in Australia.

Ah-Kiow, a second-year student who plans on studying political science and French studies, joined 23 other delegates from around the globe at the Sydney Opera House, where the summit was held.

“The G(irls)20 mirrors the actual G20 Leaders’ Summit. It brings together 24 girls [from around the world] to discuss the same issues as the G20 Leaders are debating in November in Brisbane, Australia,” says Ah-Kiow.

Founded by Canadian social profit entrepreneur Farah Mohamed, the G(irls)20 Summit is an organization that provides young girls around the world with skill-building, global mentorships, and platforms from which they can speak for their respective countries. Each year, the Summit invites girls aged 18 to 20 from each G20 nation, plus one delegate each from the European and African Unions, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Middle East and North Africa regions with the objective of proposing solutions to issues that will be on the annual agenda of the G20 Leaders’ Summit.

Among the issues that were discussed this year were jobs and growth, infrastructure and sustainability, and mental health. Even though mental health was not on the G20 leaders’ agenda, the G(irls)20 Summit decided to include it as mental illnesses cost economies huge inefficiency losses.

“We believe that if you want to speak to the leaders, speak to them in the language they care about. And honestly, what they care about is growth, jobs, and economy. So we come up with solutions to economic problems,” Ah-Kiow said.

Ah-Kiow mentioned that all of the delegates present at the summit had faced hurdles at some point in their lives because of their gender. “The reason why we got involved was because all of us had been though hardships. It was an incredible window into the specific challenges they have to overcome to be fully included in those countries’ economies,” she said.

Even though Ah-Kiow believes that Canadian women are far more privileged to have access to high quality education and better implementation of laws governing their working conditions than women living in other regions of the world, she feels that a great deal of improvements are still needed.

“We are far from parity in governments; we are not being represented equally. So issues that affect us directly aren’t being debated in Parliament. In the corporate world as well, we aren’t even close to having parity in terms of women in top executive positions,” she said.

Applicants for the G(irls)20 Summit were selected on the basis of their responses to questions related to leadership qualities, entrepreneurship skills, and analytical capabilities.

What encouraged Ah-Kiow to apply to be Canada’s delegate was an interview with Farah Mohamed that Ah-Kiow conducted for the non-profit organization Swiggtalk, where Ah-Kiow organizes events for high school girls and blogs for The NextWomen business magazine. Ah-Kiow has previously been involved with non-profit organizations like War Child Canada, Free The Children and Plan Canada.

The resolutions from the G(irls)20 Summit will be presented to G20 leaders when they meet on November 15 and 16 this year.