For me, one of the most valuable parts of the Women Changing Africa Symposium was its intergenerational nature. How often is it that a high school student and a high level executive are in the same room, let alone in a room that emphasizes collaboration, reciprocal learning and a common future? The relevance of this aspect quickly become clear when a guest raised her hand and posed a question to the panel of accomplished women at the front of the room: “There were very overt wrongs that your generation was fighting against. The issues of my generation and the one below me represented in this room are a lot less tangible. Given this, what should we be fighting for? What should define the contemporary women’s movement?”
This is an important question, one that I have heard frequently in discussion of contemporary feminism. However, I am slowly realizing that there can’t possibly be one answer to this question— nor should there be. Events like this symposium are incredibly valuable for their ability to bring multiple generations together in a dialogue that connects the struggles of the past with the development of actions for the future. I believe that we must allow ourselves to be inspired by these trailblazers, and use this to fuel our own actions and our own paths because our actions will be infinitely stronger if they rest on our convictions of what is needed for us, today. There is no deficit of ideas out there. Younger generations can, and must, define what changes we will make, always looking to the inspiration of women that came before us for perspective, and a helpful push towards action.
- Freesia Levine ’11
Freesia was one of six students selected to travel to South Africa to attend the Barnard’s Third Annual Global Symposium and assist with a leadership workshop for high school students from around Johannesburg.