BY: TULA CHILDS
This past month, Harriton High School’s social justice club, Students Advocating for Gender Equality (SAGE), attended the 15th Annual Pennsylvania Women’s Conference. Six young women and a socially “woke” male were exclusively selected to attend the event, amongst an estimated 10,000 women. During the conference, we were awarded the opportunity to sit in on workshops led by Alexa Curtis, Zaniya Lewis, and Dani Rylan, all founders, and CEOs in their early twenties. These empowering women addressed issues concerning bias, school, and how to overcome targeted adversity in other facets of life. They spoke eloquently of the necessity of speaking up, and the importance of women using their voices. We learned the skills needed to equip ourselves to combat negativity and bias. Valerie Smith and Dena Blizzard spearheaded this verbal campaign for female speech. In addition to these workshops, we networked for college, career, and community interests, by communicating with professionals throughout the city of Philadelphia and beyond.
Amal Clooney, Maysoon Zayid, and Serena Williams gave captivating speeches during the conference. In the discussion of lesser pay for women, a major theme of the conference provided methods to address these blatant biases and what we, as women, and “renaissance men,” can do to prevent its routine occurrence. We were also instructed on how to disarm ourselves of the internal and external angst or rage that we may feel, resulting from the bias in both an educational and professional setting. Serena Williams, the primary keynote speaker, was a beacon of advocacy for many important platforms, such as breast cancer awareness, domestic abuse, and women’s equality in the workplace (through high brand companies such as Nike), she pointedly stated, “these brands represent me, and I represent women,” alluding to her demand for change in these primarily male-driven companies.
Indisputably, everyone’s favorite speaker was a comedian, Maysoon Zayid. Not only is Maysoon Zayid a Muslim, Arab woman with cerebral palsy, but she unforgivingly owns her truth. She strikingly conquers her disadvantages and reclaims her power; and hilariously, at that with the unusual ability to address serious issues such as religion, racial profiling, “specially abled” rights specifically regarding etiquette, and single mothers. She accomplished this in such a comedic and profoundly graceful way. Ms. Zayid animates a unique skill that very few possess. It was an honor to witness her speech.
Ultimately, the Pennsylvania Women’s Conference was an opportunity to experience truly empowered and inspirational female figures. We, as students from Harriton High School, should make it our mission to implement the messages heard and the knowledge we learned. As a member of SAGE, we would like to thank our fearless and all-knowing club sponsor, Ms. Wilson-Harvey, for constantly advocating on our behalf. She pushes us to take charge of our developing voices, by providing us with a constant example of empowerment which she embodies and has instilled within us. We would like to also thank the Lower Merion School District for granting SAGE the opportunity to attend such a powerful event- encouraging us, as students, to become leaders and spokespeople within our district. We are committed to counteracting and preventing bias, dismantling bullies, and speaking up for what is right!