On Saturday January 21, 2017 I spent my day speaking at Columbia University’s WEBelieve HER Legacy Women’s Conference. I touched ground in NYC with a humble mission, excited to share my story, goals, and inspiration to a group of smart, diversified college women. I was the blonde, thin, white young woman who stood out amongst a group of predominately women of color. As I was greeted at check in, I felt an overwhelming feeling of sisterhood, the kind that moves the earth and sparks real change. It was a defining Girl Power moment for me and I couldn’t think of a better place to be.
WEBelieve’s breakout session speakers gave valuable insight into what it is like for young girls of color who live in low economic areas facing everyday challenges such as domestic violence, drugs, a mother in prison and a severe lack of positive role models. I was reminded that girls are a product of their environment. This is an environment I cannot relate to, yet I found myself thinking how much we had in common. My struggles may pale in comparison, but when one girl can’t find her voice…her roar becomes a distant sound that might never be heard. HER problem is MY problem. Understanding her challenges allows me to stand beside her and create change.
During the WEBelieve’s Women In Communications Panel, I was asked to share the defining moments that helped me realize the importance of my mission of empowering young girls. The irony in this request suddenly became very clear to me. I thought to myself, “That moment is now.” By simply showing up and being our true and authentic selves, with no goal or motive other than to empower those around us, we inherently highlighted the positive effects of using our voices.
During my time at the conference I couldn’t help but reflect on how great it is to be a woman today in the USA. I have the right to vote, protest, wear the clothing of my choice, navigate city streets alone, marry whom I choose, and receive an education. I live in a nation with a right to create a non-profit organization at the age of 15 which inspires and instills self-confidence in young girls and women. The idea of not only having a passion, but being able to empower others through that passion, is an idea that is completely unheard of to most women around the world. Thanks to thousands of brave women and men who have given their lives for this country, I am part of a small percentage of women who have equal rights to men, and actually have a voice that can be heard worldwide - and you can bet your life that I’m going to use that voice and scream at the top of my lungs. I will scream for those who have not yet been heard. For the girls who would do anything to attend school and receive an education, for they have a thirst for knowledge that may never be quenched. For the women who undergo genital mutilation against their will. For the teenage girls who find themselves in arranged marriages in which they have no right to an opinion of their own.
Thanks to women such as Susan B. Anthony, Alice Paul, and Lucy Stone, we have been given this incredible gift of a loud voice. It is now our responsibility to use it to empower others to be confident, brave, and strong. To help them find happiness in dark times, and to create a movement of loud women who aren’t afraid to fight for their own equal rights on a global scale.
Every revolution has begun with one brave soul, who had nothing but a voice of fiery passion. When others have joined, true change takes place.
What are you waiting for?