International Day of the Girl Event in Vermont

International Day of the Girl Event in Vermont

10/23/17

By Kiran Wagnar, CARE Action Advocate Leader

In a whirlwind of one-pagers, appropriations, and unfathomable statistics, it can be difficult to remember that the movement to end global poverty is still focused on the individual. We work to end global poverty not simply because of the millions upon millions who deserve it, but also because we have been touched by the individual stories of millions. And just as we are inspired by and work for individuals, we must also remember the power of the individual.

On October 11th, the International Day of the Girl, I was reminded of the power of individuals working collectively. Roughly a week before the date, I was informed that I would be able to bring Selamawit Bekele, an international youth, gender, and education activist, to Vermont to help us celebrate and capitalize on the International Day of the Girl. In an effort to maximize her visit to Vermont, I was tasked with the daunting task of organizing an event and media for Selamawit while managing college applications, extracurriculars, and advanced courses. It was intimidating job, but I knew it was something that would make an immense difference in my community.

Through creating partnerships and leveraging personal relationships, I was able to organize a youth taskforce (staying true to the founding of International Day of the Girl!). As a group, we secured partnerships with various organizations and groups in our community to promote, participate, and be present at our upcoming event. In addition to CARE, these include RESULTS, Vermont Network, Emerge Vermont, Peace and Justice Center, South Burlington Rotary, PACT, Change the Story, Langrock, Sperry & Wool LLP, Sue Minter (former gubernatorial candidate), Woman’s March Vermont, YWCA Vermont, Champlain College, Johnson State, University of Vermont, and One World Library.  We were also able to mobilize around media securing a feature in WCAX to promote the event as well as interviews for Selamawit with the Burlington Free Press, Vermont Public Radio, and Vermont Digger. We were even able to do a livestream on Burlington Free Press (64,000 likes on Facebook) and have Channel 17 film our event in its entirety!

When it came time for the event, the support from our community was overwhelming! Not only did we have students volunteer to help set up and bring food for the event, we were also able to fill the venue to capacity with a diversity of geographies, ages, and backgrounds represented from high school students to state senators. Additionally, at our event we were blessed with a breadth of speakers including the Executive Director of Refugee Outreach Club, Inc., Commissioners from the Vermont Commission on Women, and representatives from the Offices of Senator Leahy, Senator Sanders, and Representative Welch. We also had Ken Patterson, Director of Global Grassroots Advocacy at RESULTS, to speak as well making the event both inspirational and educational.

The end result was more than just a successful event; it was a reaffirmation that a single person has the power to make immense change regardless of personal background or experience. Not a single member of the audience or the taskforce that organized the event was a paid lobbyist or even a seasoned advocate. Instead, we were regular members of the community who gathered to learn more about an issue we cared about. Putting together an event like this is further testimony than anyone can be an advocate and that anyone can make a difference regardless of age, region, or experience. Everyone brings a unique asset as a volunteer from graphic design to speaking skills and it is only when those skills are combined can change truly be achieved.

I am extremely thankful that my event was able to occur successfully, I have no doubt that this kind of support and dedication is not unique to the CARE Action advocates. CARE Action advocates truly are the embodiment of individuals taking collective action to make worldwide change and I am excited to see where my work to end global poverty will take me next!  

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