How I went from YouTube to the United Nations

Hayla Ghazal describes her incredible journey from YouTube to the United Nations

This month, the United Nations partnered with YouTube in the global fight for gender equality. The video-sharing platform appointed a small team of content creators it believed could speak for a generation of young women around the world.

These change ambassadors span the globe, have millions of followers and are recognised on the streets in their home nations. However, they are not your average celebrity endorsers.

Instead, they are made up of everyday people. I know, because I am lucky to be one of them.

I was thrilled to be offered a role in the call for gender equality, as part of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Our purpose is simple: advance efforts to empower women around the world and achieve equal opportunities for men and women.

The response has been overwhelming. The fact that the UN is partnering with such organisations adds weight to the argument that gender equality is one of the most important topics in discussion among world leaders today.

What’s less obvious is how influential a platform such as YouTube can be in this journey. My story, as well as that of many others, is a perfect example for how borderless social channels can inspire people to be great – people who may not have previously known how.

When I was younger and still trying to find my calling in life, I was a little shy. So, at 15, I knew I had to push my boundaries to develop my personality. I joined one part-time job after the other, from being in TV commercials to presenting live events.

In time, it became clear to me that I loved creating content. At 18, I opened my YouTube account and began creating and sharing content built on the things I loved, found inspiring or found hilarious. Anything that evoked an emotion in me, I thought was worth sharing with the world.

The response to my content was awe-inspiring. People from all over the world were connecting with what I had to say.

This encouraged me to work even harder on my show and helped me see the entrepreneur in me, not only online but offline too.

The growth of my channel encouraged me to open two fashion boutiques in Dubai. I really don’t think I would be half the person I am today at age 20 had I not been enabled to communicate with such a diverse and inspiring audience.

This just goes to show how influential platforms such as YouTube can be. This goal of achieving gender inequality is so much bigger than my peers and I. It’s a movement that wouldn’t be possible without the opportunity to not only reach the widest plains, but also give a voice to the suppressed and voiceless living across them.

By having the platform to find your voice, share your thoughts and ideas, and leverage your influence, women and girls around the world can fulfil their potential.

This isn’t just in the sense of expressing oneself. Women can also become entrepreneurs and business-owners, providing real value in their respective markets. I began small, but in just a few years I have managed to build and grow my career.

It’s good that organisations such as the UN recognise that women on YouTube represent a powerful community of female role models from diverse backgrounds, capable of effecting global change.

Through our stories, Ingrid Nilsen, Jackie Aina, Yuya, Taty Ferreira, Louise Pentland, Chika Yoshida and I will help bring together a new community of voices highlighting gender equality.

In the wise words of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: “A goal without a plan is just a wish.”

Hayla Ghazal has more than 700,000 subscribers to HaylaTV, her YouTube channel