1. Claim your seat at the table
As I approached the Gender 360 Summit, I was momentarily overwhelmed and intimidated by the buzzing room full of intellectuals. The room was filled to capacity with tables of women and men chatting, debating and discussing their views about adolescent girls around the world. Then, I remembered all of the skills and lessons I learned while organizing leadership conferences for women. I thought about the times I quietly sat in the back of the room soaking in the incredible knowledge from the faculty and speakers. I channeled the eloquence of my first African American female supervisor and thought about the countless occasions she pushed me out of my comfort zone towards my full potential. I thought of my mother and the pure tenacity that engulfed her being. Then, I boldly entered the room and took a seat at the table.
2. Recognize education is the key and mentors, skills and self confidence open the door
The women at the summit were simply fascinating. I had conversations with individuals that provide entrepreneurial classes to women from marginalized communities as well as women who focus on developing leadership skills among women in the medical field. The occupations of the participants varied from individuals from USAID to leaders in grassroots organizations focused on girls in the U.S. We all had one common goal. This goal is to uphold the most vulnerable portion of the population by maintaining their wellbeing and rights and also, providing them with accessible and quality education. I held back tears and wholeheartedly joined fellow participants applaud Sarah Muthoni, an activist from Kenya, as she told us, the first step towards education was entering the classroom. Even if this means you will get kicked out because you can’t afford the fees. Her thirst for knowledge and grit allowed her to not only attend school but also receive a scholarship and continue to college. In order to break the cycle of poverty or a negative self image, we must start a new cycle. Sarah Muthoni demonstrated this by participating in the Global Give Back Circle.
3. Speak your mind
For many years I was a shy individual that preferred to lower my voice into an inaudible hush. Then, one magical day I decided to take a chance and it led me to the women’s programs office in an organization in Washington, DC. This is where I met some of the fiercest, most intelligent well versed women. This is where I quietly took notes in the back of a conference room on negotiation skills, budgeting skills, goal setting and public speaking. Then, one day I embarked on a journey to follow my passions and empower myself. I attended conferences, went to networking events and invested in my education. It took a conference on adolescent girls to remind me of some of my pivotal turning points in my own life. Feyi Rodway education and empowerment specialist, told me that girls need a safe zone to speak their mind, blossom into adulthood and feel self empowered. As the day concludes, I realize that women also need a safe zone or as Feyi called it a Brave Space.
So I encourage you to find your Brave Space, Claim your seat at the Table and Speak your mind. I think I finally found my voice and I have so much to say. We are the #UnitedStateofWomen.
Continue to follow live coverage of the Gender 360 Summit by visiting crowd360.org.
Cover Photo Credit: FHI 360