There’s no doubt 2023 has been the year of the girl. On one hand, girlhood has been roundly celebrated in movie theaters and concert venues; girls have altered economies and driven culture. On the other hand, girls currently find themselves up against unprecedented challenges. In the United States, girls are being denied necessary abortion care and living through school shootings. Across the globe, girls are being deprived of educational opportunities, displaced due to armed conflict, and forced into child marriage, an issue that will only become more prevalent as communities continue to be ravaged by the effects of climate change.
For UNICEF, a United Nations agency focused on aiding children, girls have long been top of mind, and on Tuesday night, the organization gathered a room full of activists, artists, and celebrities together for a black-tie event at Ciprani Wall Street in New York City to honor UNICEF’s work helping girls around the world. “There is an urgent need for increased attention and resourcing for the key areas that enable girls to realize their rights, achieve their full potential, and change their lived reality and their future impact on our world,” UNICEF USA’s chief philanthropy officer V. Renée Cutting told the crowd. “UNICEF always plays a powerful role in accelerating progress as we work, by design and intention, across health and nutrition, education, child protection, water, sanitation, and social protection pillars using data, government, partnerships, and importantly, girls’ voices.”
Hosted by UNICEF ambassador Sofia Carson, the evening gala included performances by Maggie Rogers and Sara Bareilles, who then came together for a stunning duet of “She Used to Be Mine,” a song from Bareilles’ musical Waitress. A crew of Broadway stars also took the stage to perform a medley of songs, including Chaka Khan’s “I’m Every Woman,” Alicia Keys’ “Girl on Fire,” Alessia Cara’s “Scars to Your Beautiful,” and Beyoncé’s anthemic “Run the World (Girls).”
Aria Mia Loberti, an activist and star of Netflix’s All the Light We Cannot See, delivered the night’s moving keynote address. The actor, who was born with a rare genetic eye condition and is legally blind, described how difficult it was to access safe and equitable education in the U.S. With the help of supportive parents, Loberti went on to become a Fulbright Scholar and is now working toward her Ph.D. “But a young woman with a disability, who is not only literate but well-educated, who has a thriving career that she loves, who is supported as a whole person, is sadly just not the norm. It’s not even the expectation,” she said. “For many, supporting young girls is not even really a goal at all, and that’s why I remain committed to advocacy. I know firsthand what it’s like to be vulnerable and voiceless.” She continued, “Girls need our support and our investment now, not only to help them survive and thrive but to ensure that they are empowered as agents of change within their communities.”
She also spoke about her support for UNICEF, explaining, “One of the many things that I admire about UNICEF is that it really understands how gender inequality touches every facet of a girl’s life, from childhood through adolescence and into adulthood, and their gender equality work is actually embedded across all of its programming areas, so their approach goes beyond responding to the manifestations of gender inequality and tackles underlying drivers while supporting girls’ agency and lifting up their voices.”
After the speeches, performances, dinner, and a live appeal that raised funds for the organization, guests were invited to an afterparty hosted by UNICEF Next Generation, featuring music from DJ Samantha Ronson. Get a peek into the night’s affair, below: