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Authored by IOP Women's Initiative in Leadership student Doménica Merino '17

“Don’t cry, strategize.”

These words ignited a wave of cheers across the theater as Tina Brown kicked-off the 5th annual Women in the World Summit. This mantra of courage and innovation resonated throughout all of the narratives from the inspiring men and women featured at the three-day conference. Located at the Lincoln Center in New York City, the event brought together an impressive line-up of speakers who are breaking through glass ceiling, organizing communities after war and destruction, and ardently demanding change and progress.

I had the opportunity to attend the summit and immerse myself in this inspired and inspiring community thanks to the IOP’s Women’s Initiative in Leadership program. Throughout the semester, our sessions have introduced me to techniques for how to lead but this trip opened my eyes to what it means to lead.

True leadership is when a person sees a problem in the world and instead of backing down or waiting for someone else to solve it, she steps up and works relentlessly to empower herself and her community.

Let me present a snapshot of some of the intelligent and dedicated women I heard speak that brought me to my epiphany:

Hilary Clinton and International Monetary Fund (IMF) Chief Christine Lagarde, two icon world leaders, made a powerful duo as they conceded that there does exist a double standard but then proceeded to speak on how it could be dismantled.

Oscar-winning filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and Khalida Brohi, founder and executive director of Sughar Empowerment Society, both told about their work to advance women’s rights in their native country of Pakistan.

Anna Stork and Andrea Sreshta, cofounders of LuminAID Lab, spoke about their path to creating an inflatable, waterproof, solar-powered light for disaster relief now used in fifteen countries including in Haiti, Laos and the Philippines.

Masha Alekhina and Nadya Tolokonnikova, from Pussy Riot, the dissident Russian feminist group protestors, told of their experience in jail and of their continued work to demand change from their government.

The mosaic of empowered women featured in the conference presented a wide array of vocation including CEOs, politicians, grassroots activists, artists and scientists. Each person had come face to face with adversity, from institutionalized glass ceilings to crippling poverty, government crackdowns and even genocide, yet they choose not to concede but rather to persevere and ultimately came together to better their communities.

The quote Tina Brown used to start of the event originated from Khalida Brohi. After losing her friend to an honor killing in her native Pakistani village, instead of accepting the status-quo that allowed for such to terrible actions to continue, Brohi went on to create a non-profit that empowered women with the personal and professional skills needed to sustain a small business. What I saw in her story was a woman who was so perturbed by the circumstances around her that she took action to make change happen herself.

Thus for me, the Women in the World summit was a call-to-action. The first step is awareness, the next and most important step is engagement. It takes more resilience and innovation to stop solely complaining about injustices and start coming up with solutions.

Doménica Merino is currently a Freshman at Harvard College planning to concentrate in Government with a secondary in Global Health and Health Policy. She considers both Quito, Ecuador and Lawrenceville, Georgia home. She is passionate about social service and pursues this interest through her involvement in the IOP and the Phillips Brooks House Association. Doménica currently participates in the IOP Women's Initiative in Leadership





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