After receiving hundreds of nominations for our Feminist You Should Know contest, the Feminist Campus team was able to sift through them, sit down, knock our heads together, and decide on ten finalists! This was no easy task: every single nominee was the most amazing person we’d ever met so far in our lives. No lie. Our awe-inspiring crew come from a diversity of backgrounds, universities, regions, and perspectives in the feminist movement – and it’s just not possible for us to choose a winner alone. And that’s where you come in!
Over the next week, we’ll be posting blog posts written by each of our stellar finalists; on Monday, we’ll launch an online voting form where members of our community – that’s you! – cast a vote for who moved you deeply, inspires you most, or simply has your favorite haircut.
When I arrived on the massive University of Wisconsin-Madison campus from my town of 200 people, I could feel the vast number of opportunities to make a difference that had just become available to me. At first I found myself overwhelmed with possibility.
That was until I took my first Gender and Women Studies class, The Cultural Representation of Women. I knew I had found my niche and things began to flourish from there.
As I started learning about the women’s human rights abuses occurring worldwide, I found myself hungry for knowledge. I quickly switched my major to Gender and Women’s Studies and set off to find an organization to get involved with. After student org shopping, I fell in love with GlobeMed, an organization that focuses on developing a partnership with an NGO. Our campus’ partner was with COWS, the Center for Outreach and Women’s Support, in Cambodia. GlobeMed showed me how to properly be involved with international work by strongly instilling the notion that us university students were not there to solve anything, we were there to offer support to the program that the Cambodian people were running. After attending to the GlobeMed National Summit, I felt as though I wasn’t supposed to go to New Zealand for study abroad, which I was set to push off for in less than 3 months. I realized I wanted my study abroad experience to be learning first hand about the topics I had been studying about in my large lecture halls. I emailed several study abroad programs, as all of the deadlines had passed, and told them of my epiphany. One program still had openings, Kenya: Community Development and Health.
I got my Malaria pills, calmed my worried mother and set off for the greatest adventure of my life.
After doing the field courses and visiting countless NGOs, I became even more interested in women’s empowerment in the development setting. Instead of returning to school in the spring, I got an internship with Health By Motorbike, a Kenyan NGO working towards women’s health, rights, education, and empowerment. As I rode on a motorbike to remote villages, I became inspired by the strong women I saw completely running an NGO on their own through community involvement. I began to believe in my power as a woman to make tangible change in this world.
While I was in Kenya, I started a community library and safe space for women and girls to find refuge at and open their minds to all of the possibilities available. I began mentoring a group of adolescent girls and, after a letter writing exercise, I became aware of the troubles they were facing at home. Although when we were together we were always laughing and having fun, at home they were surviving on one meal a day and getting sent home from school because of insufficient funds and tattered uniforms. That night I stayed up late starting a Making Education Possible Fund for them. When I woke up in the morning, people had donated over a thousand dollars.
We got the girls the necessary supplies for them to stay in school and started an animal husbandry project for a sustainable solution to their hunger problem. I am currently working towards raising scholarship funds for them to attend secondary school and help them finally break the cycle of poverty affecting their families. During my stay I also started a Moringa Tree project with women’s groups that worked to mitigate their malnutrition problems and start businesses. Back on campus, my passion for feminist work did not falter – I got a job at the Campus Women’s Center and once again became involved in community involvement. In this position, I became dedicated to educating the public about why feminism is still needed in today’s society by running a feminist campaign. In addition, I began the International Women’s Rights Campaign in the hopes of informing the campus about women’s involvement across the globe. I also run condom crawls in the dining halls and dorms, educating students on the ranges of safe sex supplies as well as providing them free of charge. While at the Campus Women’s Center, I have had the pleasure to witness such spectacular events occurring on campus such as the Slutwalk, speaker Jensine Larsen, a Transitional Health Workshop, speaker Caroline Rothestien, some Coping with Stress and Depression Workshops, and several other educational and empowering events.
I find myself incredibly lucky to have such an amazing job and I eagerly await the possibilities left to be discovered through working here. I am still working with Health By Motorbike, rising to become the Communications Chair and fundraiser director, and am set to return to Kenya December 30th. Next semester, I only plan to grow my feminist work through the Campus Women’s Center and my internship with Wisconsin Without Borders – an organization working with women’s micro-finance projects across the globe.
I proudly declare myself a feminist and will continue to add my feminist perspective to opportunities that come my way throughout my life.