Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

College Students Tackle Gender Inequality

January 04, 2013

For as long as I can remember I have been passionate about the empowerment of girls and women.  I am a junior at Millsaps College (a small school in Jackson, Mississippi), studying international relations.  When I entered college, I was overwhelmed like many other freshmen. But I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself. I wanted to make an impact, but didn’t know how to impassion my community.  I wanted them to see what I was seeing: that our world is in a girl crisis.  Girls all over the world are dying because they are seen as less valuable. I had to act immediately, and I needed to bring my 900 classmates along with me to make the most impact. 

I became a Campus Ambassador for the Half the Sky movement and started to plan our campus premier of their recently released documentary.  Although I was raising awareness on campus, I wanted to do more.  I wanted to send girls to school, and Catapult made this possible.

More than 200 students showed up to our Half the Sky screening in early October. That incredible evening began a ripple effect that enveloped our campus. We formed a Catapult team to raise awareness and money for the education of girls in the developing world, and decided to fund the project “Scholarships for Girls” through the Afghan Institute of Learning. Students at my school learned about the oppression of girls around the world with Half the Sky, and were able to take action because of Catapult.

Together at Millsaps we were able to create a movement of informed, generous students.  On October 11, the UN’s International Day of the Girl, we set up rows of ribbon hanging from the ceiling of our cafeteria with dozens of facts attached about the oppression of women and girls. I was inspired by Catapult’s mission to make giving fun, so we made that our mission in fundraising as well.  While I blasted the Spice Girls, Beyonce, and Florence+ the Machine, I invited my peers to hear how they could make a difference for communities around the world – and then gave them free chocolate.  I had so much fun dancing around all day, sharing my passion and seeing student’s desire to make change.  Once students understood that we were determined to make a difference and to have fun, many more joined in. Faculty, staff, and students started joining our team on Catapult and then donating online.  Our awareness building and fundraising went hand in hand, and for such a small campus we were really successful.  We raised $1,200 for “Scholarships for Girls” in less than three months.

I know it can be really difficult to engage college kids.... We are bombarded every day with new responsibilities and new ideas.  And college can bring a new awareness of the world. Many of my peers had no idea that there were girls in the sex trade, no idea that girls were denied access to school because of their gender, no idea that such oppression even existed. All that awareness can lead to a type of brain-freeze, and that was the reason I was afraid to share my passion with my campus.  These are big, scary issues that have many, varied (and sometimes confusing) solutions.  Catapult makes solutions to these big problems more attainable by breaking them into small, fundable projects. 

I am confident that the movement on our campus will continue to grow, and I’m so grateful to Catapult for making it all possible.  Catapult and I truly believe, as Sheryl WuDunn said, that “women are not the problem, they are the solution.”  So let’s fund them!  Let’s amplify their voices and help them in creating this brave, new, equal world.

Join a Catapult team or create your own today!

 
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