Peace Corp Volunteer, Kathleen Kirsch (served in Education volunteer in Babadjou, West Region 2014-2016), attended a summit called the United State of Women in June. Here’s what she said about her awesome experience:
Last week I attended the first White House Summit on women and girls’ issues- the United State of Women. This summit brought together 5,000 women from around the world to focus on “pillars”- topics that included Violence Against Women, Health and Wellness, Economic Empowerment, Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Educational Opportunity, Civic Engagement and Leadership.
There was a lot of discussion in the panels about Let Girls Learn and girls’ education that directly related to the work A2 Empowerment is doing in Cameroon. I participated in smaller break out sessions which I chose based upon my Peace Corps projects (specifically on HIV/AIDS prevention and as a math and physics teacher). I attended one session on girls’ HIV/AIDS risks and another on getting girls into STEM fields through education.
The summit’s format was large plenary sessions targeting their pillar topics, broken down into panels and solution seminars focusing on best practices for those issue areas. More so than all of the fantastic panelists, it was the women I met throughout the day who are doing grassroots work in women’s health, education and empowerment every day who were awe inspiring.
I’ll close with my favorite part from President Obama’s speech:
“It will take leadership. It will take the right policies. It’s going to take creating more opportunities. It requires us telling each other and our children the right stories — because the stories we tell matter.
We admire the men who shaped our country, and rightfully so, the men we see as heroes — from Alexander Hamilton to Muhammad Ali — for their confidence and their courage in believing they could change our nation, this idea of self-creation, that there’s nothing holding us back. In them, we see America itself, constantly reinventing itself, fearless, looking out over the horizon at the next frontier.
But our country is not just all about the Benjamins — it’s about the Tubmans, too. We need all our young people to know that Clara Barton and Lucretia Mott and Sojourner Truth and Eleanor Roosevelt and Dorothy Height, those aren’t just for Women’s History Month. They’re the authors of our history, women who shaped their destiny. They need to know that.
A woman did not magically appear on a space shuttle. It took Sally Ride’s relentless commitment, Mae Jemison’s boundless courage to shatter that glass ceiling. A group of California farmworkers — they weren’t just handed their rights. It took Dolores Huerta organizing and mobilizing, fighting for the dignity and justice they deserved.
Rosa Parks wasn’t simply a tired seamstress who sat down by accident. She was a civil rights leader with the eye of a strategist and the heart of a warrior. She had the confidence to board on that bus, the courage to risk her own life and liberty for the sake of ours. History did not fall into her lap — she seized that moral arc and she bent it with her bare hands in the direction of justice.
That’s the story that’s still being written, today, by our modern-day heroes like Nancy Pelosi or Sonia Sotomayor or Billie Jean King or Laverne Cox or Sheryl Sandberg or Oprah Winfrey or Mikaila Ulmer or Michelle Obama — the countless ordinary people every day who are bringing us closer to our highest ideals. That’s the story we’re going to keep on telling, so our girls see that they, too, are America — confident and courageous and, in the words of Audre Lord, “deliberate and afraid of nothing.”
That’s the country we love, and I’ve never been optimistic — as optimistic as I am now that we’re going to create a country where everybody, no matter who they are or what they look like or where they come from or who they love, can make of their lives what they will. And together, we can build a world that’s more just and more prosperous and more free. That’s a job for all of us.”
We are the United State of Women.