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The New Social Network: How My Generation Empowers Women to Empower Themselves

I see the role of women changing, because many young women believe in the power of women to facilitate change as something they can relate to.
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'WIE need you' in the fight to save women's lives around the world! So say Arianna Huffington, Sarah Brown and Donna Karan, co-hosts of the first annual Women, Inspiration, Enterprise (WIE) symposium in NYC. Timed to underscore appeals to world leaders, WIE is at once a convention and a celebration, bringing together women at the forefront of politics, philanthropy, media, fashion, and the arts with young women from the US and developing countries who are already making a difference to change the world.

As a recent graduate from American University in Washington, DC, I felt, like so many of my fellow classmates, that I was being thrust into the "real world", one on a fast track to a career path, personifying the role of young professional, and attaining a favorable benefits package. All of this thinking about my future plans has naturally led me to reflect on my experiences these past four years. I came to the realization that students who attend AU, myself unknowingly included, are of the politically active and socially conscious variety. Our proximity to Washington gives us an unobstructed front seat to the world's issues. Most every student has a cause and wears it proudly as a trend setting accessory piece from their wardrobe. I convinced myself that I wasn't actively seeking a cause. I ever-so-uniquely decided that my desire for world peace in general would be sufficient. However, after looking back at the many papers I have written in a myriad of international relations courses, I realized in the majority of them, I had related each course's particular topic to women. I had in fact had a cause. I am now cognizant that I was writing, gaining knowledge, and gaining passion about something I already knew and understood a great deal about -- being a woman.

I see the role of women changing, because many young women believe in the power of women to facilitate change as something they can relate to. Not every woman has had to face the issue of risking their lives in order to let their children begin theirs, as is the case with the 1500 women who die from pregnancy -- or childbirth-related complications each day. Each one of us can relate to each other in our various roles of mother, sister, wife, friend, and most importantly, the power of our own strengths as individuals.

With technology evolving at such a rapid pace, and instantaneous feedback (such as the capabilities in this blog), women from around the world have become accessible and can come together to share ideas and experiences in ways they never thought possible.

This became abundantly clear to me during my summer internship at the Centre for Development and Population Activities (CEDPA), where the mantra "empowering women to empower themselves" was spoken almost daily. At CEDPA, some 30 women from around the developing world would spend a month in Washington, DC to be trained in leadership and capacity building skills, as well as encouraged to share their own personal struggles and successes in hopes of inspiring each other.

One of my most rewarding responsibilities of being a dutiful note taker during the training sessions was not so much that I learned to boost my "words per minute" or be a diligent listener. Rather, the Indonesian woman became my teacher one day, as the Nigerian chief shared customs and traditions from her village the next. Some days, we would attempt to dance samba as gracefully as the Brazilian women or shake our hips in the same tantalizing fashion as the Middle Eastern women. This summer, I learned I could have an immense connection to women from any part of the world, varying in age, religion, language, and socio-economic backgrounds.

Being able to connect with other women and relate to one another on so many levels is a unique gift. As such, this gift acts as an important issue because it is an attainable goal. While at the moment I feel as though I have little to offer other than my snazzy dance moves, I hope that having the opportunities that I have had in the past as well as the great opportunity to attend the WIE Symposium will allow me to be insatiable in my quest for knowledge. Through my ability to absorb and relate, I hope to continue not only my support, but to be a part of the young women of our generation who embody this great sense of empathy and honest yearning to empower women.

All proceeds from WIE will go to support the work of the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood and Urban Zen.

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