What actions are you taking to promote and protect the health and rights of women and young people worldwide?
Currently, my life is devoted to protecting the health and rights of women and young people, particularly that of the girl child, and I plan to continue growing this work indefinitely. Therefore, I work with Girls on the Run International (GOTR) as a coach and mentor at Sisulu-Walker, New York’s first charter school which was named after two men who were integral in forming the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa and also worked alongside Nelson Mandela and Dr. Martin Luther King. I am also a fundraiser and endurance runner for SoleMates, the charity leg of GOTR, and on May 30 I will run the Comrades Marathon in South Africa, a 56 mile endurance event, in order to raise funds for my team at Sisulu-Walker as well as for GOTR. I am currently pursuing a Master’s of English Literature at Fordham University in New York City where I concentrate on Black Internationalism. Before my arrival in South Africa, I will be in Madrid delivering a paper entitled Lifting As We Climb: Race and the Feminization of Poverty As a System of Cultural Ethics in French Colonialism. As a scholar, my work focuses on women, poverty, and literacy. I have also studied 18th Century Literature at the University of California Berkeley, feminist theory at Mills College, the French language at the Sorbonne, creative writing at New York University and the University of Iowa, Feminism, Gender, and Cultural Diversity at Columbia University, as well as poetry at the Barnard Center for Research on Women. In the past, I was the Director of College Mentorship at Future Women Leaders which bridged young women finishing their degrees with women already in the workforce. Finally, I also run a part-time virtual publishing business to partially fund all of the previous endeavors.
What is your vision of lasting change for yourself and for the world's young people?
After attending myriad events at the Beijing +15 World Conference, a 15-year review of the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action in regard to the status of girls and women at the United Nations, Yale University’s Access to Technology and Human Rights conference, the Economic Security for Women: Wealth Building for Women of Color as a Strategy for Long-Term Economic Recovery conference on International Women’s Day at Capitol Hill, Engage Her’s Multicultural Women’s Leadership conference at University of California Berkeley, the Feminist Majority’s Women, Money, and Power Summit in Washington, DC, as well as reading a wealth of reports on the status of girls and women and traveling in third world countries, I am dedicated to the empowerment of girls as a monumental step toward a more egalitarian world. According to UNICEF’s Bringing Girls Into the Focus report, “The girl child of today is the woman of tomorrow. The skills, ideas, and energy of the girl child are vital for full attainment of the goals of equality, development, and peace. For the girl child to develop her full potential she needs to be nurtured in an enabling environment, where her spiritual, intellectual, and material needs for survival, protection, and development are met and her rights safeguarded.”
Thus I will do everything in my power to see our collective world transform into that reality. UNICEF’s goal is long-term, but so as to keep moving toward it positive programs like that of Girls on the Run is essential. The program is highly effective in helping young girls learn about becoming fully vibrant and mindful human beings who are also connected to healthy and strong physical bodies. My vision is a pairing of GOTR’s motto: Learn. Dream. Live. Run. and Hillary Clinton’s statement that, “Human rights are women’s rights, and women’s rights are human rights,” which she made at an event to thank her Presidential campaign volunteers and continues to promote in her current role as Secretary of State.
If you could tell world leaders one thing, what would it be?
At all of the conferences I attend and in all of my dealings with educators and young women and girls, the following words are often repeated: Access. Engage. Implementation. It is time to promote the rights of girls from the top-down and bottom-up. In order to bring true social change, many strong visions of healthy, respected girls and women must be accessed, engaged, and implemented. That shared vision is ready to thrive.