In March of last year I was lucky enough to be chosen by the Women’s Leadership Program (WLP) at George Washington University (GWU) to attend the National Young Feminist Leadership Conference in Crystal City. WLP sponsored approximately 10 of its students to attend the conference free of charge, in an effort to expand the leadership skills the program works to promote during the year. Instead of lounging by the beach, I got to spend my spring break surrounded by like-minded women hoping to change the world some day – a dream come true!
I found everything I was looking for – and so much more – at NYFLC. The conference is set up to first get you pumped up and empowered, and then to help you strategize and organize. At the General Assemblies, I was blown away both by older women who had been feminist activists for most of their lives, as well as younger women who had done incredible things in a short period of time. I got to hear from Ellie Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation, and Terry O’Neill, President of the National Organization of Women. They spoke of days when feminist wasn’t a household term. I also got to hear from younger activists, including Slam Poet Charity Blackwell, on what feminism means to them.
Later, at the workshops themselves, we got to put that empowerment and motivation to good use. One of my favorites was the workshop on sexual assault education on college campuses. It was the first that I attended – and I even gathered the courage to get up and ask a question! It was led by a panel of people who worked with Title IX issues on campuses – both student activists and official Title IX coordinators. My university got a shout-out in having just implemented mandatory sexual assault education as part of our incoming student orientation program; my class was the first to receive it. I was particularly interested in the struggle of making sexual assault education mandatory while not detracting from student interest. It’s something campuses across the countries are working on – when something is mandatory it means you most likely don’t actually want to do it, and probably won’t fully participate. This complacency and lack of interest, or of not taking the issue seriously, was something I noticed when I was completing the mandatory education. It’s an ongoing issue, and the panel by no means solved it, but they did provide me with the tools I needed to start combating that complacency on my campus.
My favorite part about the entire conference was definitely the vast range of speakers. No workshop was led by a single person – meaning the tips and advice we were receiving, as well as the perspectives we were hearing, were incredibly varied and diverse. I personally think a major part of growing the feminist movement and leading it to success is listening to all who partake. We don’t all have the same experiences, and we should be aware that we can constantly learn and grow from one another just by listening and sharing with one another. Attendees at NYFLC 2016 were not afraid to make themselves heard when they felt something was unjust or when they had concerns. This type of open dialogue doesn’t exist everywhere, and I found it to be one of the strongest aspects of the conference.
Now, less than a year later, I’ve declared a second major in Women’s Gender, and Sexuality Studies, and I’m an intern with the Feminist Majority Foundation. That’s just part of what NYFLC did for me – wondering what can it do for you? Register now!
Early bird registration is currently open for the 13th National Young Feminist Leadership Conference until February 17th! Be sure to register to take advantage of the discounted rate before its too late! Be sure to sign up for Campus Alerts on the website and watch our social media for more updates about #NYFLC2017!