Written by Kimberly Quitzon, Secretary
Nothing was more ironic than empowering myself to jump start my car after just attending The Report on the Status of Women and Girls in California. My fingers were dirty, my unstoppable shirt was damp and my makeup was melting from sweat. I was thinking of all the women I had just heard share their stories and thought “if they can get through their life, I can start this car.” However, speaker Sheryl WuDunn, did not quite share her story, she told the stories of other women, to show that even in the most remote places of the world there are women and girls fighting to make a change in their lives and the lives around them.
Sheryl started off by telling us about a woman named Shawna, she struggled through an abusive childhood, drug addiction, prostitution, and with the help of Becca Stevens, she found herself with a job and a healthy life. Becca’s company makes organic body care products and gives jobs to women like Shawna so they can rise up from their muddy waters. Although their stories may be different, they both share the strength to push beyond their barriers and fight for what they believe in.
Elizabeth is another woman of a phenomenal empowerment. She felt it was unacceptable for girls to miss school in Africa due to their lack of sanitary napkins, as she learned during her visit. She took it upon herself to study the creation of organic pads to help these girls, and has successfully built a company in Africa to manufacture these products. Elizabeth had a dream and she fulfilled it, and after sharing her heartwarming story, Sheryl shared this video of Eunice to inspire us to chase our dreams; because no matter how big they are, if we work hard enough we can achieve them.
Padeja Williams has shown us her struggles and accomplishments that followed. Padeja loved school, but growing up in multiple shelters affected her attendance. She would read thrown away newspapers to feed her hunger for knowledge, and by ninth grade told herself she would remain in one school. After four years of early morning bus rides and late nights at school, she graduated fourth in her class with the highest SAT score. Yet, this was not her greatest accomplishment. Padeja wanted to attend college and with the help of a generous family she filled her applications in their home rather than her usual street-curb desk. She is now a Harvard graduate and remains to be a prime example of how far determination can go.
I had the chance to walk with Sheryl and ask her what advice she could give me as a journalism major. Naturally, I was expecting an answer regarding credible research however she simply said “be the best person you can possibly be and do the best you can.” Although she has won a Pulitzer Prize and continues to be an advocate for those with limited resources; she remains humble. This is what sets these women apart as strong individuals, the ability to achieve success and simultaneously be grateful for what they have. As Eunice puts in her video “for it’s not about who you are, but how you see yourself.”