By: Selam Abdella
On October 12, 2019, I had the privilege of representing the Women’s Health Organization International as the Keynote Speaker at Girls Inspire Girls Summit by Network for the Empowerment of Women.
I worked with WHOI founder, Habiba Cooper Diallo, to develop engaging material that would appeal to and empower young girls attending the event.
Upon my arrival at the Girls Inspire Girls Summit, I was warmly greeted by Ifeoma Esonwune, the dedicated woman who organized the summit, along with MLA Rafah DiCostanzo, and the eager conference attendees. My presentation focused on the journey of being young woman leader and the value of learning from one’s experiences. I started by telling the young girls about my background, as it informs most of my values today and why I work with WHOI. I spoke about how growing up in Ethiopia, I was well aware of the challenges that the lack of access to resources such as healthcare presents many young women.
Now a university student who manages an equity and accessibility office on campus, I try my best to bridge the gap between people and the resources they need to succeed. My commitment to creating opportunities for communities who face barriers is part of what drew me towards Habiba’s work at WHOI. I was impressed by her ability to champion women’s health and rights internationally at a very young age, and her willingness to mentor other young women in their journey to becoming young leaders.
I expressed to attendees that in my academic and extracurricular pursuits, it was not through formal leadership positions that I learned valuable lessons, but rather through my engagement with others.
In the interactive part of the summit, I helped them design a vision board where they were first asked to write something they enjoy doing. I emphasized that it did not have to be a career goal, but something they felt passionate about. Afterwards, I asked them to illustrate where they started in this specific activity or interest, what stage they are in right now, as well as what they hope to achieve in the future. The highlight of the activity was working together to help each other come up with the skills that the girls would need to develop to reach their goal. During this exercise, the girls were able to focus on the qualities they would like to develop as hopeful young leaders, instead of specific career goals. The final product of our exercise were vision boards filled with ambitious character development goals for future women leaders.
In concluding the summit, I assured the young girls that their capacity to accomplish their goals is unlimited, whether that be in health, education or whatever they are passionate about. I also impressed upon them the importance of developing skills that will enable them to thrive as young women leaders.
It was a pleasure to be given the opportunity to inspire other young women through my own journey as a leader thus far. Congratulations to the conference organizers and attendees. #GirlsInspireGirls!