By: Samiha Rao
Last year, I thought I was the only girl in my community that cared about women and girls’ rights and helping young females gain equality. I wasn’t surrounded by people who were as passionate about feminism as I was, but that all changed at the 2016 Girl Up Leadership Summit.
I arrived in Washington, D.C. in mid-July and as soon as I walked in to check into the summit, I was overwhelmed by the generosity and genuine enthusiasm for girls’ rights. There were so many activities that were lined up for the next three days. From day one, inspiring speakers like body rights activist and model Ashley Graham, Girl Up Champion Monique Coleman, and even U.N. Deputy High Commissioner of Human Rights Kate Gilmore was there.
There were workshops for everything including learning about girl refugees and why education is so important. My personal favorite was the workshop about intersectional feminism. An English teacher from New York led the seminar and it was extremely interesting the way she talked about how feminism doesn’t only include women in general, but also women of color, women of the LGBT community and so many others. You will no doubt have an amazing experience at the summit because of the speakers and the interesting workshops that you have access to – something that I don’t find in my school or community too often.
Despite all the amazing speakers and workshops, Lobby Day was by far my favorite day! It is the last day of the Leadership Summit and definitely the most exciting. You are put into groups with people that live in your state. With them, you get to go to Capitol Hill to talk to your members of Congress and advocate for refugee girls’ right to an education. This year we will be lobbying (or how I like to say, speaking up) for H.R. 2408, Protecting Girls’ Access to Education in Vulnerable Settings. Lobbying to our representatives was probably the coolest part of the summit because not only do you get to meet your U.S. Representatives and U.S. Senators representing your cities and state, but you also feel like you’re making a real change about an issue we’re all passionate about.
The 2016 Girl Up Leadership Summit was an incredible experience with inspiring speakers, interesting workshops, and an amazing environment filled with friendly and passionate feminists. Just remember that although it can be a bit nerve-wracking going into the summit and knowing nobody (like I did last year), it’s so easy to make friends because of the welcoming and accepting community. I still keep in touch with many of my new friends from last year and I can’t wait to make more friends this year. I am so excited for the 2017 Girl Up Leadership Summit and I hope to see all of you there and change the world!
Samiha Rao is the President of the Franklin Girl Up Club in Massachusetts. The 2016 Girl Up Leadership Summit was her first summit and afterwards started a Girl Up Club at her school.