I just want to discover the commonalities that we share as women. Here’s your key. I come from a country where women are in the process of emancipation. There are stereotypes about what kind of women go to a women’s college and I want to break those stereotypes. I want to be the type of person that builds bridges between American women and then women from around the world.
It doesn’t matter here which religion they are from, which culture. What they think about what is leadership, for them, what does it mean to them. We’ve had three gatherings of the WEW that have been for presidents and deans, and this is the first-ever gathering for students. Beth Gibney Boulden, associate director, StudentPrograms: Mount Holyoke and Smith colleges formed the Women’s Education Worldwide coalition in 2004, and they brought together leaders of schools from all around the world.
Jesse Lytle, assistant to the president: Andin 2006 we met again in Dubai, and in 2008 we met in Italy. Beth: Then-President Creighton said we should do that here, but let’s make it bigger and even better and let’s invite two female students from women’s colleges all over the world and bring them here and share what we do every day in terms of empowering women to be leaders in their world. What happens when women are strong. They move mountains.
The planning committee hasn’t been confined to a simple sort of old-school notions about what it means to empower and liberate women. The degendering classes are not equal. You can’t say act like a man and it’ll work. We believe that we have something to learn from others. I’m a medical student, I love education, I lived in libraries, but if somebody tells me to take off my scarf just so I can satisfy some vision of what they “believe” to be equality.
Beth: And we believe it is time to invest in that opportunity. To think about our global connections. To prepare our students to be global citizens. To make global contributions. I was really proud when I could say yeah, this is my community and it’s open a free because we have an honor code and students abide by that. We don’t have your community. We can’t leave the doors open. Jesse: They really just locked into each other and engaged at the deepest level.
In African custom, the woman cannot make a decision. All decisions are left for the husband to do. Jesse: From the first day, I heard them debating about marriage and their lives at home. Not just school, but what they were doing and how they were going to live their lives. To watch that happen organically was just magical. I mean our own … will be the first one in the Middle East.
When you can feel like I’m doing the right thing or I’m doing the right thing for the betterment of my community, it’s not the same, it’s like you feel like you’re doing something good with your life and it makes you keep going. This conference represents such an amazing opportunity for you to start thinking about what kind of networks can I have while I’m here with women who are different from me. If an emergency situation happens to women in Sudan, in your community, and in the projects that you’re working on. We can all gather, for an emergency, or do fundraising.
I have friends now in Dubai, I have friends in India, Pakistan. Whenever we need each other, we need any support, whether it’s related to any field we will be there. We have joined together, we have email addresses and we have Facebook contact as well. So who would like to come on the stage next? The talent share was remarkable. What does my face represent to you? Does it say honest, loyal, and searching, and loving, learning, and trying, 17 years old who’s seen a lot but knows she has a lot still to see? We never expected so many women to come and be willing to take the stage.
For now and evermore. And I believe it was the support of the sisterhood that was rapidly forming that really helped them feel courageous enough to step forward. Singing Many of these women didn’t feel comfortable at first, coming up in front of others and sharing something that wasn’t practiced, rehearsed, or cleaned up. And this casual experience gave them the opportunity to say I am enough, I have enough, I’ve done enough, I’m going to present my self to you, my unpolished self. Beth: It’s very difficult to leave that sense of compassion, that sense of camaraderie, and go off into the world, and so one of the things we have done is have the students focus on a give-back project.
My give back project is the development of a junior youth empowerment program. Quality control is an important factor in hospitals that is often neglected or even forgotten. Beth: We want them in a sense to feel this experience physically and experience it emotionally as well as intellectually, and when they go home, think back to this give-back project, focus back in on it. My project is about indigenous Australians. Mainly I want to create a mentoring program with primary school-aged kids, hopefully between kindergarten and grade 3. My idea of the give-back project is to raise awareness about health care issues among immigrant and refugee women in Atlanta.
We’ve got young women with so much potential and when you see people who have ambition, you have ideas, you could actually progress in the future, it would be a great idea and a great example if we could actually help them. Beth: I believe that’s the cellular memory of this passion and motivation will be with them. I truly believe that they will bring the energy of this group home with them and then in a sense infect those that they meet.
As an activist for social change and women rights, oftentimes you start to feel alone in your thoughts because you have a society working against you is what it feels like, at least, and to be around all these women who just from the get-go have the same goals as you and the same common cause is so encouraging. Joanne V. Creighton, president, Mount Holyoke: Advancing women of the world is what this conference is all about. You are the generation that will carry on the work of previous generations, and we have great faith in you. I just think this conference has been absolutely amazing.
Just brilliant. Great. Life-changing. Penny Gill, dean of the College: There’s probably more expertise gathered in this room then has been gathered in a single room talking about women’s education for a hundred years. And in recognition of your accomplishments, of your time here, we have certificates for you and we hope that you’ll take these certificates and proudly display them at home when you return.
Penny: What’s happening right here, now is the re-imagining, the reforming, of the purpose of women’s education and this time, of course, worldwide. Joanne: Advancing equal opportunity, education opportunity, for women across all ethnic, racial, age, socioeconomic groups, both in this country and around the world, is an unfinished agenda. I feel so blessed to have this opportunity; not everyone else has had this opportunity and I want to go back and I want to share all the information that I have been given.
Beth: This conference will ripple through23 institutions and 17 countries, and there’s just no more goodwill that we could ask for. Penny: When you remember this gathering and you think of it both in its concreteness and as an image of actually how the world is going to be prepared, you will know you will trust deep in your belly, that your sisters are working on other pieces of repairing the world. Just the networking of the support.
The talent and the ambition here is truly inspiring and I mean, everybody else out there watches out, because these women are really going to change the world.