Thursday, September 19

Important Announcements on Changing the World

Hello all! It's been awhile since I've written—I just started my third semester of college, and I've been busy, busy, busy! But there are two very important things I would like to talk to you about today.

The first is an awesome organization that reached out to me recently to tell me about the amazing work they are doing in the areas of maternal and infant mortality and morbidity in developing countries.

As you may have guessed, the issue of maternal and infant health around the world is incredibly important to me. Women and Children First is an international development agency based in the UK whose mission is “to improve the health and wellbeing of women, girls and children in poor and marginalised communities.” And there is much improvement needed in this arena: according to Women and Children First's website, “Between 250,000 and 343,000 women and three million newborn babies die each year in pregnancy and childbirth or soon afterwards,” and “99% of maternal deaths occur in the developing world, making maternal mortality the health statistic with the largest disparity between developed and developing countries.” One way that Women and Children First addresses this issue is through community mobilization, particularly women's groups. As Molly Melching at Tostan and many other organizations have proven, empowering communities to institute necessary change themselves is a highly effective—perhaps the most highly effective—way to bring about sustainable, lasting change. Please take a moment to check out this wonderful organization and see how you can get involved in changing the lives of women and children around the world.

WaCF has a beautiful collection of photos on their Flickr page

Another beautiful photo from WaCF's Flickr

A women's group in Kamar Dangi, Faridpur

The second important announcement: don't forget to register now and put your International Day of the Girl (IDG) event on the map for this October 11th! Join thousands around the world to celebrate the power of the girl on this day. October 11th happens to be my birthday (:D), so I am planning a birthday party full of video screenings, discussion, and, of course, cake!, with some of my closest friends and family.

Post in the comments below or holler at me on Facebook or Twitter and tell me about the exciting plans YOU have for the second-annual IDG. I would love to share you creative and impactful IDG ideas on my various social media outlets, so please let me know!

Wednesday, August 7

"It Only Takes a Girl Like Gabriella"

This summer, I am interning in New York City with 10x10 - Girl Rising. I've been blogging about my internship experience for Tulane's Center for Engaged Learning and Teaching, and you can read my first three posts here, here and here. A week or so ago, 10x10 wrote a blog post about me for their official website, which I have copied below. I actually found out about this internship over a year ago when someone from 10x10 saw my video online and asked me to apply—and boy, am I glad I did. This has been one of the most rewarding summers of my life, and I really feel like I've grown as a person during my time with 10x10. This is my second-to-last week here, and I'll definitely be sad to go.

Anyway, like I said, I copied the blog post below (or you can read it on 10x10's website here—theirs has cooler formatting). I rather like the title. If you've been reading my blog or following me on Facebook or Twitter for awhile, much of it will be old news. However, there are a few new tidbits mixed in there, including my change of major and some of my hobbies. Enjoy!


Since she’s been volunteering with us here at Girl Rising, I’ve gotten to know a truly inspirational girl this summer—Gabriella Runnels.

And she’s involved in the campaign for girls’ education in a unique way. What started as reading and creating a YouTube video for a scholarship to Tulane University has developed into what Gabriella describes as a deep “passion for social justice.” Her interest in girls’ issues could not be more genuine, and I took a little time to hear her story.

Q: How did you first become interested in girls’ issues, like women’s health, child marriage, and education?

Gabriella: When I’ve been asked this question in the past, I always cite a June 2011 National Geographic article called “Too Young to Wed: The Secret World of Child Brides”. Reading that article on the couch in my house, crying my eyes out, was when I learned that in some places in the world, girls are married as young as seven years old. That article inspired me to do more research on my own, which led to me uncovering shocking information about bride burnings, female genital mutilation, and other injustices girls suffer around the world.

However, I think my passion for girls’ rights goes back farther than the summer before my senior year of high school. Although I hadn’t yet learned about all of the ways in which girls are struggling around the world, part of me has always felt connected to girls everywhere. I always cherished my female friends and my two sisters, and my parents raised me to believe that girls are capable of everything that boys are. So when I learned about these issues surrounding girls’ health and education around the world, my fierce belief in the power of girls came to the surface, and I knew I had found my passion.

Q: How would you describe the filming process for “It Only Takes a Girl”?

Gabriella: Producing “It Only Takes a Girl” was an extremely collaborative process. First of all, I had to make dozens of large, handmade signs. My sister Sierra was so helpful, spending hours filling in big letters with black and red permanent marker. Then came the filming. Almost fifty women and girls from my community appear in my video, and they were all so supportive and happy to participate. In terms of actually filming, my other sister, Celeste, actually did most of the camera work. When it came to editing the video clips, my mom, a very tech-savvy woman, was a great help. I couldn’t have created this video without the help of dozens of women, and I am so grateful for all of their support on this project.

Q: What inspired you to create your video? Did you ever imagine that it would go as viral as it did, with over 400,000 views?

Gabriella: I actually made the video for a scholarship project to Tulane University in New Orleans. The guidelines were basically to create something that showcased who I am and what I care about—and I care about the education of girls around the world. My mom was actually the one who suggested I make a video. I decided that in my movie, I would start by telling the story of child brides, then I’d present a variety of facts on girls in developing countries, and finally I’d end with a positive message of a hopeful future. I posted my video to Facebook with a private YouTube link, thinking no one but my friends and family would be interested in viewing it anyway. To my surprise, a lot of people started sharing the link on Facebook, and after a couple hundred views I decided to make the video public. After a week, the viewership had climbed to 100,000, and today my video has over 400,000 views. Having my video go viral has been a humbling experience. I never expected it to happen, but I am so pleased that this important message about educating girls has reached so many people.

Q: Now that you’ve earned your scholarship, what are you studying at Tulane?

Gabriella: My ultimate goal in life is to make a real difference for girls around the world. I entered Tulane as a Public Health major, thinking it might be the best path to making the kind of change I am so passionate about. However, I realized toward the end of my first year that the most valuable thing I can do is figure out a way to apply my skills to my passion for girls’ education. I have always been good at math, and I have been curious lately about how financial motivations and economic environments affect barriers to girls’ education. I recently switched into an Economics major with a Public Health minor—so we’ll see how that goes!

Q: What else do you like to do at school and in your free time?

Gabriella: I play the harp for Tulane’s orchestra and concert band, and this spring I participated in the Tulane production of the Vagina Monologues. I am part of my university’s campus programming group, and I joined several clubs that focus on feminism, social justice and service. In my free time, I write for my blog or watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I also love spending time with my family—I’m glad my college isn’t too far from home!

Q: This summer you’re volunteering with us at Girl Rising, which is so exciting! Are you currently doing any other work outside of Girl Rising to fuel your interest in girls’ issues?

Gabriella: I worked as an outreach coordinator for More Than Me when they were competing in the Chase Community Giving Awards for the chance to win $1 million. They are a great organization that helps get girls in West Point, Liberia off the streets and into school—and they actually did end up winning the money! I am also a Generation Know ambassador with U by Kotex and Girls for a Change. As an ambassador, I have committed to busting myths and eliminating shame surrounding girls’ periods and their bodies. I am also an advisory board member for the What’s Your Brave? book project Take 5 for Your Dreams, which encourages girls to be courageous and ambitious. Finally, I keep my “It Only Takes a Girl” campaign going through Twitter, Facebook, and even Pinterest.

Q: What do you think you’ll be doing ten years from now?

Gabriella: Ten years from now I’d love to be an economic analyst for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. I really respect the work that organization does with development, and Melinda Gates is one of my biggest role models. A successful businesswoman, a mom, and a social justice icon—she’s a triple threat. Plus, I’m fascinated by the economics of development and nonprofit work, and I think that kind of job would be a perfect combination of my mathematical mind and my passion for social justice.

Q: What’s one piece of advice you would give to girls who want to make a positive difference in the world?

Gabriella: I want to remind girls that they are powerful—that it really does only take one girl to make a difference. As we say at Girl Rising, “One girl with courage is a revolution.” My advice to girls is never to underestimate your own power or abilities. The future of our world lies with you, so rise up and lead the way.

Gabriella is a great example of how one can quickly become an integral part of the movement for girls’ education. I feel lucky to work with such motivated people like her every day at Girl Rising, and I am excited to hear about the differences Gabriella will be making in the future.


Tuesday, June 25

Voting Rights Act Provision Struck Down

The Supreme Court 5-4 decision to repeal the part of the Voting Rights Act that dictates which states must get federal permission before they change their voting laws seems to have been based on the argument that this provision is outdated, that states and cities that have to ask permission before altering their voting laws are being "punished for the sins of many decades ago." But how many decades ago was it that three men were murdered for trying to register black voters—that police beat hundreds of people marching for Civil Rights in Selma, AL?

Five. Five decades. That may seem like a long time, but it's not. Fifty years is not enough time to declare these areas totally free of the institutional racism that had denied marginalized groups basic human rights for centuries. People are alive today who remember being denied the right to vote—you better believe that racist views, practices and policies are still alive as well. The Voting Rights Act "was used to block more than 1,000 proposed changes to voting laws between 1982 and 2006," and last year, it "was invoked to stop a voter identification law in Texas and a Florida law that eliminated early voting days, which would have made it more difficult for hundreds of thousands of minority voters to cast ballots." This provision is not outdated. It is still extremely relevant to our current political culture, and it is necessary to protect the basic rights of countless American citizens.

I share President Obama's disappointment in this ruling, and I am inclined to agree with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's opinion that “Hubris is a fit word for today’s demolition of the VRA." We will see what actions Congress takes from here, but I am not optimistic. This is a sad day for American Civil Rights, which have been an integral part of our legal structure for the last five decades and should remain so for many, many more.

Thursday, June 20

Why Catcalling is Not Okay

As an advisory board member for Take 5 for Your Dreams, I wrote a blog post this week for the What's Your Brave? blog series on sexual harassment and sexual violence. I chose to write about catcalling, a very public form of sexual harassment that some people dismiss as "not a big deal" or even think is a compliment to women. You can view the post on the What's Your Brave? site here or read it below.

When I arrived in New York City at the beginning of June, I was nervous. Although New Orleans is a real-size city with all the crime, income inequality and political corruption that other big cities seem to have, it hasn’t prepared me for the bustling behemoth that is NYC. I am here in the city for the summer for my dream internship with an organization called 10×10, which works to promote girls’ education around the world. After living here for the past few weeks, I am starting to get more comfortable with the rhythm of the city.

Last night, I left my apartment in NYC around 9pm to make a quick run to the grocery down the street. From the moment I stepped outside, I was very conscious of the fact that I was out at night, alone, and, most importantly, a girl. I told myself that I was safe—the streets were well-lit, I thought, and surely women in New York go to the grocery store alone all the time. Nevertheless, I walked quickly, avoiding eye contact with anybody I passed. No one gave me any trouble.

I got to the store and wandered around for a bit, looking for popcorn and paper towels. As I walked past the meat counter, I heard a low whistle and someone behind me saying “Nice.” I turned and saw the man behind the counter looking at me, grinning in a way that immediately made me extremely uncomfortable. I frowned at him and walked away as quickly as I could. Although I was upset, uncomfortable and scared, I acted like nothing had happened. I quietly checked out and left the store, fuming all the way home.

This is not the first time I have been catcalled. “Catcalling” is the act of whistling, yelling at, or making unsolicited comments about someone, often in a public place. I was whistled at on a trip to Costa Rica when I was 15 by random men on the street at night. My first week of college, three boys yelled at my friend and I on a riverboat cruise, calling her “red” and me “yellow dress.” A young man in my university’s cafeteria yelled at me from ten feet away, saying “Hey girl, I see you. I see you playing with your hair.” In fact, I was even catcalled when I was in middle school. Not because I reached puberty early, or because I wore particularly exciting or revealing clothing at that age. Being catcalled has nothing to do with me beyond the fact that I possess a female body. All kinds of women—of every size, race, age and sexual orientation—in all kinds of places—cities big or small—get catcalled. Last night was not the first time it has happened to me, and it is undoubtedly not the last. And every time it happens, I react the same way: I pretend like I didn’t hear, or I look at the catcaller quickly and walk away. Although on the inside I am angry, scared and uncomfortable, I always try to act like it doesn’t affect me.

Why do I do that? Why didn’t I tell the guy at the meat counter to back off, or at least tell his manager about his inappropriate behavior? Why do women feel like they can’t respond to this kind of harassment?

I think the answer to these questions is multi-faceted. First, I have to say that some women do respond; they tell their harassers to leave them alone or to back off. These women are brave—that is a hard thing to do. And here’s why:

  • First and foremost, that kind of harassment is scary. For a woman, especially if she is alone, it is frightening when a strange man yells or whistles at her, and it is difficult to respond. When a man she doesn’t know is giving her that kind of unsolicited, unwelcome sexual attention, she will probably feel immediately unsafe around him and will not want to engage him further in any way.
  • Second, society has told women from the moment they arrived on this planet that above all, they should be polite and not cause a scene. This idea has been so culturally reinforced throughout our lives that we, as women and girls, sometimes even risk our own safety in favor of not being rude or drawing unwanted attention to ourselves. When a stranger yells at us from across the street, instead of yelling back that he should keep his comments to himself, we might just walk a little faster and keep our heads down. We have been taught our whole lives that the worst thing a girl can be is aggressive and rude, even to harassers.

Being catcalled does not make me feel pretty or desirable. When a man I don’t know whistles at me or comments on my appearance, it is not a compliment. Catcalling women and girls is a way to remind them that when they are out in public, they are public domain. That when a girl is on the street or in a store at night, her body is not her own. I am an 18-year-old girl living in New York City for the first time. I have dreams, thoughts, opinions, and feelings. When I am out—night or day, alone or not—I want, like anyone else, to be seen as a human being. But when a strange man catcalls me, he is reminding me that I am first and foremost a female body that he and any other man has the right to access.

These messages to girls that their bodies do not belong to them but are instead public property are internalized at a young age. In my eighth grade all-girls health class, my teacher was talking to us about catcalling. She asked us if she were to come to school in nothing but a sports bra and track pants, would she deserve to be whistled at by male students? My class of eighth grade girls almost unanimously responded yes, of course: if she wants to wear revealing clothing, then she just has to deal with that kind of behavior from men. My teacher then explained to us that no, no matter what a woman or girl wears, she does not deserve to be harassed—she is not asking for the input of strange men, and she should not have to be subjected to their catcalling. Looking back on this class, it shows me how early in our lives girls are taught that it is our responsibility to control men’s behavior and that we do not ultimately have a say in what happens to our bodies.

One of the reasons men continue to catcall and harass women they don’t know is because this behavior goes largely unpunished. As I explained before, it is difficult for women to push back against this kind of harassment, and onlookers certainly don’t often jump in to help. Therefore, I would like to end this post with an open letter to men everywhere.

Dear Men Who Catcall Women:

Just don’t. She doesn’t want your input. She doesn’t want to know that you think she’s got a nice body. Her self esteem does not depend on the opinion of a (creepy) stranger, and her body is not yours to comment on, whistle at or harass. She is a human being, and her mere existence does not mean she owes you anything. To Men Who Catcall Women, from women everywhere, I say: Back off.

Dear Men Who Don’t Catcall Women:

I know that some of you do not immediately understand why catcalling is a problem, as it is probably something that has never happened to you. However, if a woman complains about being catcalled, do not challenge her. Don’t argue with her. Don’t tell her that it wasn’t a big deal, or that it was just a compliment. Women have heard it all before, and the truth is, it’s not your place to decide if it was a big deal or not. To Men Who Don’t Catcall Women, when a woman tells you that it is harmful: believe her. If you dismiss or belittle her experience—even if you have never catcalled a woman in your life—you are part of the problem.

To men and women everywhere who stand up for women’s bodily integrity and autonomy, I say: Thank you. Keep doing what you’re doing.

All the best,


Friday, April 12

Leaning In

Sheryl Sandberg, the well-renowned and inspiring woman who just so happens to be the Chief Operating Officer of a little company called Facebook, wrote a book and founded a non-profit around her concept of “leaning in.” The idea is that despite the fact that women face systematic and institutional blocks when climbing the corporate ladder, women can take control of their fates by leaning in—by being more assertive and self-confident. 

Lean In is both the title of Sandberg's book and the name of her nonprofit
This concept of “leaning in” has recently been widely discussed and critiqued in the media. One common criticism is that it is unfair to tell women it is their responsibility to overcome structural inequalities and obstacles. That we should focus on fixing the system instead of essentially telling women just to do it themselves. While I certainly see this side of the argument—I definitely do believe that we need to work to address these systematic issues that keep women down in business, politics and other sectors of society—I also think there is something empowering in telling women not to wait for that to happen.

I went on a retreat this past weekend to train to be a Generation Know Ambassador with U by Kotex and Girls for a Change. The mission of the U by Kotex campaign is to empower girls with complete and accurate information about their bodies and their periods and to eliminate the shame surrounding them. As a Generation Know Ambassador, I will be designing a project (or two, or three...) to break the silence about periods and vaginas, to bust the harmful myths associated with them and to spread the word about girls' health and knowledge of their bodies.

The retreat was absolutely wonderful. There were approximately 28 girls from the US and Canada ranging in age from 15 to 23. All of these girls were clearly passionate, intelligent and ambitious. Although we only had a weekend together, our group leaders led several engaging activities to help us get to know and connect with one another. One of the first small activities we did made a particular impression on me. While we were all sitting in one large circle, one of our group leaders told us to “lean in.” She meant this literally: she wanted us to lean our bodies forward, lingering in this position for a few moments. She had us note the sense of vulnerability we felt in that moment: no longer completely balanced, moving closer into a space of people with whom we are mostly unfamiliar. Then she wanted us to think about times when we feel similar vulnerabilities in our lives, when we venture out farther than we are generally used to, when we take risks and are uncertain about what the outcomes might be. She then described this concept of “leaning in” as making yourself vulnerable, yet therefore more able to learn new things, explore new ideas and even meet new, wonderful people.

To get in the know, visit
The first thing I thought of as she was explaining this concept was, unsurprisingly perhaps, Sheryl Sandberg's concept of leaning in. I thought about how their conceptions of this idea were different: Sandberg wants women to be more assertive and confident, and my group leader wanted us to allow ourselves to be vulnerable and step out of our comfort zones. When I thought about it more, however, I realized these ideas were really quite similar. The idea behind “leaning in” is about taking risks, putting yourself out there, believing in yourself enough to allow for some chance of failure and knowing that failure will not define you. These behaviors are generally discouraged in women, who above all are expected to be “likable.” Not ambitious, nor assertive, nor risk-takers, but rather nice and inoffensive. And this is an idea I reject, as a woman, as a feminist, and now, thanks to this amazing opportunity from U by Kotex and Girls for a Change, as a Generation Know Ambassador.

As an ambassador, I will be working to empower girls with information about and respect for their bodies and the amazing things that they are capable of. And I believe that the more we are confident about, comfortable with and proud of our bodies, the farther we, as women, will be able to lean in. 

Sunday, March 31

If the World Were 100 People

In my Certified Peer Educator (CPE) training for my job as a peer health educator, we have been reading chapters from the textbook Peer Health Education: Concepts and Content by Hong, Robertson, Catanzarite and McCall. I have had a lot of problems with this text, especially concerning its (mis)information on sexual health and responsibility. For example, the textbook highly recommends the use of spermicides containing nonoxyl-9, an organic compound that immobilizes sperm. However, there are a whole host of problems associated with nonoxyl-9 that the book fails to mention. For example, many women experience allergic reactions to nonoxyl-9; besides being quite uncomfortable and unpleasant, this increased irritation causes more vaginal lesions. This, according to a study conducted by the World Health Organization, can increase the incidence of HIV infection, despite the book's claim that spermicides provide “substantial” STI protection. Indeed, according to, spermicides alone do not prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs). In addition to increasing the risk of contracting HIV, regular use of nonoxynol-9 has been shown to increase the risk being infected with human papillomavirus (HPV), which can cause cervical cancer.

Anyway, enough with the rant on nonoxyl-9. My point is, despite the fact that I have encountered quite a few frustrating problems with this textbook, I came across a section that really intrigued me in the chapter about the importance and value of diversity.

“Consider this,” the book says. “If we shrank the world's population to a village of 100 people, it would look approximately like this:
  • There would be 57 Asians, 21 Europeans, 8 Africans, and 14 would be from the Western Hemisphere (North and South America). 
  • 51 would be female, 49 male. 
  • 70 would be non-white and 30 would be white. 
  • 30 would be Christians, 18 Muslims, 13 Hindus, 6 Buddhists, 5 Animists, 1 Jewish [sic] and 27 would be other (Atheist or no religion). 
  • 50% of the village's wealth would be in the hands of only 6 people, and all 6 people would be United States citizens. 
  • 70 would be unable to read. 
  • 50 would suffer from malnutrition. 
  • Only one would have a college education. 
  • No one would own a computer.” 

Although the use of the word “Jewish” as noun is somewhat absurd and reminiscent of the Mandy Moore movie Saved (“She was the only Jewish ever to attend American Eagle academy”), the overall concept of representing the world population as a village of 100 people seemed clever and caught my attention. I decided to look into this idea a little further.

Even though this book was apparently updated in 2011, most of its statistics seem quite outdated. With some quick research, I came up with what I believe to be a slightly more modern representation of the world if it were condensed into a village of 100 people today:

Despite its outdated statistics, this textbook has a pretty valid point: “When seeing the world from such an incredibly compressed perspective,” the book says, “the value of both tolerance and understanding becomes glaringly apparent.”

Do with this information what you will (and be sure to check my facts—clearly I don't have a problem challenging information that I read, and neither should you!). Statistics can be misleading, and sometimes they don't mean much unless we know exactly how they were calculated (and by whom). Nevertheless, looking at this (perhaps not entirely accurate but still interesting) representation of the world is certainly thought-provoking.

After I had painstakingly looked up every individual statistic, I came across this website that has posted its own representation of “If the World Were 100 People,” as well as references to detailed research and source information and the 1992 statistics by Donella Meadows who originally came up with this concept. This portrait of the world uses slightly different indicators to represent the population, but the idea is the same. The world is not nearly so big—nor so homogenous—as we are sometimes led to believe. If we could always view the world this way—as a pretty small group of people who, although quite different in backgrounds and beliefs, are just trying to make their way through life like you and me—maybe we would all be a little more understanding, a little more open, and a little more tolerant.

It sounds idealistic. It sounds a little dreamy. But maybe, just maybe, we would.

Disclaimer: Most of the information in this post—if no other link was provided—comes from Wikipedia, which I wholeheartedly support as a source of accurate, reliable information.

*The sex ratio for the world population is about 101 males to every 100 females. This gender imbalance is affected by numerous factors: although women statistically live longer than men, more male babies are born than female babies. This is because the “natural sex ratio” is 1.06 males for every 1 female; that is, without any external interferences, naturally more male babies are born than female babies. However, certain environmental, social and economic factors also contribute to the gender imbalance of the population in which there are a greater number of males. For example, in certain countries female fetuses are selectively aborted, and in more extreme cases, female babies fall victim to gender-based infanticide.

**According to the CIA World Factbook, “There are no universal definitions and standards of literacy. Most presented rates are based on the ability to read and write at a specified age. Information on literacy, while not a perfect measure of educational results, is probably the most easily available and valid for international comparisons. Low levels of literacy, and education in general, can impede the economic development of a country in the current rapidly changing, technology-driven world.”

Monday, March 4

Girls Impact the World Film Festival Winners

Today, I received this email from Lila Igram, founder of Connecther, an organization that “helps women help themselves.” 

The Girls Impact the World Film Festival held its inaugural awards ceremony honoring girls who are impacting the world through film at Harvard College on Saturday, February 23, 2013. The Girls Impact the World Film Festival, co-sponsored by & the Harvard College Social Innovation Collaborative called on students to submit 3 - 5 minute films on issues related to advancing women and girls globally. The GITW Festival Awards Ceremony screened phenomenal films, all made by students, addressing global health, education, child marriage, sex-trafficking, women in media and many other issues. The winning film, International Boulevard by ZoĆ« Simone Yi and Rebecca Dharmapalan, Oakland School for the Arts - was a shocking documentary about sex-trafficking in Oakland, CA. 

Christy Turlington Burns, founder of Every Mother Counts had this to say about International Boulevard, "Great job bringing a global issue closer to home. Great use of experts, great film production. Had a very cohesive message and was informative all the way through."

"This film was excellent. The message was very clear and the use of interviews with people on the front lines was a strong mechanism to frame the issue." Jean Oelwang, CEO of Virgin Unite

Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus said, "Informative and insightful. Makes you think deeper into the issue of sex trafficking."

Other judges include Maria Eitel (CEO Nike Foundation), Nobel Laureate Leymah Gbowee, Pat Mitchell (CEO of the Paley Center for Media), Robb Moss (Harvard film-making professor), Zainab Salbi (Founder of Women for Women) and Jeff Skoll (Founder of Participant Media).

1st Runner up went to Teen Pregnancy Second Runner up & Cisco's Most Innovative Film Prize went to This is a Girl.

People's Choice went to Because I Am a Girl.

Please see what Jean Oelwang, CEO of Virgin Unite had to say about the event here.

We would love to hear from you. Please do write with comments and/or feedback. Also, check out & like our Facebook page for pictures of the event at:

Looking forward to next year! This is only possible with your support!

The GITW Team

Lila also told me in the email that "In many ways, watching It Only Takes a Girl inspired us to do this . . . you continue to make a huge impact!" I am very honored that Connecther feels that my video played a role in inspiring this amazing project. This festival was a truly wonderful way to get girls involved in issues that affect all of our lives. For more information on Connecther, please check out my blog post “Highlighting Charities.” They are a great organization that I have been following for a long time. Please take a moment to watch some of these incredible winning videos, and spread the word!

Thursday, February 21

Newcomb Scholars

First of all, exciting news: as of the writing of this post, we only need about 2100 more views on the video to reach the big FOUR HUNDRED THOUSAND. Woohoo! (Tell your friends!)

Next, I wanted to fill you in a bit on what's been going on with Newcomb Scholars. I guess I should begin by saying—I got in! Indeed, I have been a Newcomb Scholar since late November, but I haven't brought it up since I told you all about the program back in October.

We began our career as Newcomb Scholars on December 1 with a day-long “retreat,” in which we played some icebreaker games, came up with general rules and guidelines for our cohort, and generally got to know one another better. Since that time, we twenty girls have been meeting every Tuesday and Thursday at 8:00am for a seminar on “The History and Philosophy of Higher Education.” Basically, we have been reading about and discussing women in college through the years.

I have gotten to know some of the girls in my cohort quite well, and they are all wonderful women. Today we turned in our first major assignment of the semester, a short essay on some aspect of the history of Newcomb College. I chose to write about the Newcomb Women's Center—a center for women formed in the 1970s whose purpose was to counsel Newcomb women on career planning—and its involvement in Second Wave Feminism. Below is an excerpt from my essay:

“A Woman's Place is Every Place.” This popular 1970s slogan, which was often seen on bumper stickers and buttons across the nation, encapsulated the spirit of the mid- to late-twentieth-century women's movement known as the Second Wave of Feminism. This feminist movement began in the 1960s and lasted until the 1990s, and it's message was clear: women must no longer be confined to the home but must instead be free to explore their capabilities and ambitions without the oppressive restraints of patriarchy. Some of the most important issues of Second Wave Feminism, which questioned the dominant conception of a woman's role in society, included educational and career equality, women's reproductive health and sexuality, and laws and politics concerning women.

The feminism associated with the Second Wave permeated all levels of society, including the university. Although Newcomb College was, in some respects, a typical conservative Southern school, as an all-women's college it inevitably became involved in this social movement. In particular, the Newcomb Women's Center, today known as the Newcomb College Center for Research on Women, was active in the feminist ideals of this time. This center, though initially intended as simply a lounge, art gallery and career counseling center for Newcomb women, became involved in different aspects of Second Wave Feminism through its various programs, courses, events and resources. . . .

Women's centers like Newcomb's began forming in various universities around the country, and many of them had a particular focus on identifying and combatting obstacles to women's participation in society. As Mariam Chamberlain explains, many of these centers “went beyond [the education of women] to include some of the radical ideas of the growing women's movement . . . women's lives, roles, and expectations.” The Newcomb Women's Center was no exception. Indeed, in March 1975, Newcomb invited the famous anthropologist and author Margaret Mead to speak at the center's dedication ceremony honoring the Newcomb alumnae who raised over $50,000 to fund the center. Mead, an important feminist thinker in the 1970s, delivered a talk to over 400 people in the second-floor lounge of Caroline Richardson about “The Changing Role of Women.” According to the Newcomb Women's Center's print publication Womentalk, Mead explained that “now men and women are all doing most of the same things. Women are becoming more active in public life and men are more active in the home.” However, she said, “On the whole, many women are stuck still. College-educated homemakers are the cheapest form of labor we have in the United States.”

I went on to describe how the women's center promoted women's advancement in careers, women's health and reproductive freedom, and political and social equality for women, concluding with:

Today, the Newcomb Women's Center has become the Newcomb College Center for Research on Women, but its importance and influence are hardly lost. The Center was created in the height of the Second Wave of Feminism, and there could not have been a better moment for it. Overall, this era of feminism saw the “development of women-only spaces and the notion that women working together . . . would ultimately work for the betterment of the entire planet,” and the Newcomb Women's Center certainly proved this point true. With its emphasis on career counseling, sexual health and freedom, and political equality, the Center provided a space for Newcomb women of all ages to come together and work toward a brighter future for womankind. A woman's place truly is every place, and the Newcomb Women's Center saw to it that every woman found hers.

I am thoroughly enjoying this class, and I am loving getting to know my fellow Newcomb Scholars. I look forward to the next three years we will spend together—even if it does mean waking up for an 8am seminar!

Newcomb Scholars Class of 2016