Training and Epiphany

My training at Stanford University so far has been wonderful. Maybe it’s just the weather, but it seems like everything here is beautiful. Stanford lives up to its reputation as one of the most gorgeous campuses in the world. The architecture of the dorm we’re staying in reminds me of a small Italian villa. And while I knew California was renowned for its perfect climate, the weather still came as a great relief from the North Carolinian humidity.

However, I barely have time to enjoy the frequently visiting breeze that winds through campus with all the seminars and schedule cramming. I don’t mind it so much, though. Being busy keeps my mind off home and makes me focus on the year ahead. Maybe that’s the point. But thanks to some of the seminars we’ve had on the different sectors, I’m pretty sure of the specific field I want to be in this year. I now know I definitely want to work in women’s reproductive rights. I was influenced by two instances. First of all, I recently read a nonfiction book titled The Blue Sweater by Jacqueline Novogratz, the founder and CEO of the Acumen Foundation, about bridging the wealth gap by working in the developing world. In the book, ­­­­Novogratz describes her experiences working with women in developing countries to give them the opportunity of recieving small loans in a system called micro financing. Through working with these women and seeing the impact they had on their communities, she observed something call the Girl Effect. By empowering women through education opportunities, entrepreneurship, and family planning, the entire community is helped because women are proven to reinvest 90% of their income back into the community while men are shown to only reinvest 30-40%.

The second thing that influenced my decision was a seminar we had on this Girl Effect. A representative from the Girl Effect organization came and talked to us about how the Girl Effect benefits all parts of society and how men often also benefit from a women’s liberation. I’m convinced one of the biggest ways to affect a community is through empowering its young women. Of course, it also appeals to me because, hey, I’m a young woman. And through Global Citizen Year, I’m being empowered myself. I feel that empowering other young women is the right thing to do with this opportunity I’ve been given.

I don’t know for sure that I’ll be placed in an apprenticeship for reproductive rights but I’ve talked to one of my Team Leaders, Lila and we bonded over our passion for the subject and veganism, funny enough. She told me that being a vegetarian in Ecuador is actually a possibility! But that’s a topic for another post later. If I work hard enough to learn Spanish, I have a good possibility of being placed in the apprenticeship of my dreams! I am excited to go forward!

For more information on the Girl Effect visit http://www.girleffect.org/

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4 Comments

  1. Hi, Sarah…interesting topic/focus you’ve chosen. It can be defined in many ways, including deceptive ones. I’m a women’s libber from way back (protested, burned a bra or two, got the dress code changed in my high school and broken several glass ceilings) but, with all rights, women’s rights need to be weighed in terms of the impact they have on others’ rights. Education, information, access to empowerment tools are so very important. So is a truthful understanding of the meaning of women’s rights and women’s health care. Speak out boldly and strenghthen those in such need, but always with a mind for the whole truth – which isn’t always apparent on the surface. P.S. The opportunity to continue as a vegetarian must be joy to your ears, not to mention your stomach!

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  2. Wow. I love your focus! I truly wish I had your verve when I was your age (although I have it now :))! I am so amazed and inspired by your attitude. I had not heard of the girl effect but I love it. I plan to share this on facebook and perhaps, my own blog. I look forward to learning more about this effort and your own.

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  3. Andy

     /  August 30, 2012

    Glad to hear you’re off to a good start with your training. The Standford campus is indeed a wonderful place! In my experience, a strong focus led by real passion is a great way to live life so I hope you continue on that path. Also, in my experience, the only thing that is true about statistics is that they are 99% false — or to be more accurate, they are very frequently used in ways that are not supported by the methodology used to develop them. So when I see a statistic that does not make obvious sense to me, I like to look a little further. The quote “women are proven to reinvest 90% of their income back into the community while men are shown to only reinvest 30-40%” struck me as non-obvious so thought I’d track down the reference to see what was actually measured and better understand what the numbers mean. Interestingly, it turned out that it’s not so easy to track this down. Virtually all references to this statistic (including the “Fact Sheet” on girleffect.org) point to a Yale Press article authored by Chris Fortson. Looking up the actual article I found that the author does not actually make such a claim. The article is simply a report on a talk given by Isobel Coleman (a a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations). Isobel also did not claim ownership of that statistic. Apparently, in the talk, Isobel referenced an unnamed study as the source. And that is where the trail ends for me because another 20-30 minutes of looking did not yield any clue about the actual study and therefore the real meaning of the numbers. None of which discounts the importance of working to improve the economic, legal and personal environment for girls around the world. It’s just another reminder that statistics are just numbers unless you know where they came from. And, perhaps it’s also motivation for a little research project for someone who is really passionate about this topic to find the source and really understand the numbers.

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  4. I tracked down an email address for Isobel Coleman and sent a message asking her about this. Since that quote was from 2003, maybe there are also followup studies that explore the topic in more detail. I’ll let you know if I get a reply.

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