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Being selected as a 2012 ANNpower Fellow was one of the pivotal moments in my leadership journey. Prior to attending the ANNpower Vital Voices Leadership Forum in Washington, DC, I had been creating a foundation for my identity as a leader. At the Forum, I was able to fine-tune my skills and to put them into practice. One of the highlights of the Leadership Forum for me was planning my ANNpower project, which I have since implemented in my community in Tampa, Florida. 

After the Leadership Forum, I decided that I would connect my ANNpower project to my work as a co-chair for the 2012-2013 Teen Advisor class for Girl Up, a United Nations Foundation campaign that raises funds and awareness for United Nations programs that benefit girls in developing countries. In this role, I encourage American girls to help their counterparts around the world, advocate for legislation that positively affects girls and women, and mentor other Teen Advisors.

I decided to hold a series of workshops on global women’s issues in partnership with my local chapter of Girls Inc., an organization that helps girls “be strong, smart, and bold.” At first, it was nerve-wracking to send emails to the Girls Inc. staff and to meet with them to discuss my plans-but then I remembered the strength it took for Kah Walla, my ANNpower Mentor, to challenge Cameroon’s political system, and suddenly my task did not seem so hard.

Kah Walla, above, served as an ANNpower Mentor during the 2012 Leadership Forum in Washington, DC.

I created a series of workshops about the issues that girls face around the world, focusing on Ethiopia, Liberia, Guatemala and Malawi. For each workshop, I either chose traditional stories from that culture or books set in that country to read to the girls. I also planned other activities that corresponded with the books. For example, during the workshop about Ethiopia, we read Pulling the Lion’s Tail, a story about an Ethiopian girl who got to know her father’s new wife with the help of her grandfather. Some of the pictures in the story showed women carrying baskets of vegetables and other items on their heads, so after we read the story, the girls got to try carrying baskets on their own heads. 

Putting together the workshops has not been without challenges, though. The youngest girls that I teach are in kindergarten and first grade, so it has been hard to adapt my lesson plans for them, since they have limited knowledge of other countries, and may not be able to read. I’ve had to make three sets of lesson plans, one for the kindergartners and first graders, another for second and third graders, and the last for fourth graders and higher. However, I feel like I have truly made a difference. I’ve reached nearly 75 girls through my workshops, and helped inspire them to make a difference for girls around the world.

I know I will carry what I have learned through my experiences as an ANNpower Fellow and Girl Up Teen Advisor far into the future. I would like to continue working in the nonprofit field, or as a legislative analyst or lobbyist, to pursue my interests in public policy and international studies. I will forever remember the people I have met through the ANNpower Vital Voices Initiative and Girl Up, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to follow my dreams. 

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