Munira Khalif is the 2017-18 U.S. Youth Observer to the United Nations, a role appointed annually by the U.S. Department of State and the United Nations Association of the USA to increase youth engagement in global affairs. Munira was born and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She is currently an undergraduate student at Harvard University, majoring in Economics and minoring in Government. She is a dedicated advocate for universal access to education and women’s and girls’ rights. Her experience as a first-generation Somali-American raised her awareness of the sad reality that many children, especially girls, lack the opportunity to attend school and underscored the transformative power of education.
Munira previously served as an advocate and Teen Advisor for the United Nations Foundation’s Girl Up campaign and was invited to attend the first inaugural Malala Day at the UN Headquarters in New York as a youth delegate. Munira also served on a UN panel on behalf of Girl Up with representatives from UNESCO and the Global Partnership for Education to discuss ways to increase lawmakers’ involvement in youth issues. Munira, alongside other youth advocates, successfully lobbied Congress to ensure that girls in developing countries are registered at birth.
Munira is a co-founder and leader of Lighting the Way, a youth-run non-profit organization that works to make education more accessible and equitable for girls in East Africa by providing scholarships, building libraries, and sponsoring teachers. Munira was awarded the UN Special Envoy for Global Education’s Youth Courage Award, which honors young people fighting for universal education. She was one of nine recipients chosen from around the world to receive the honor. Munira was invited twice to attend the annual White House Iftar dinner, which celebrates Muslim-American trailblazers both in the public and private sector.
During her free time, Munira enjoys writing, performing spoken word poetry, and creating pottery in a ceramics studio.