The West African Adinkra Symbol, “AYA,” or the fern, is a symbol of endurance, resourcefulness, and growth. It became the perfect symbol for ONE’s first-ever girls and women conference – the AYA Summit – this year. After two days of incredible speakers, soul-soaring performances, and gut-wrenching stories, attendees and speakers alike were bursting with renewed energy and hope for the power of girls and women to change the world.
We put together a list of some of our favorite quotes from the Summit – moments that made us laugh, made us cry, and made us stand up and cheer – that we hope will inspire you as well.
Clemantine Wamariya: “I’m a woman and that translates everywhere.”
Yes, everyone is a special snowflake with his or her own style, beliefs and drumbeat. But there’s something about being a woman that connects us to a global tribe of she-power – a tribe that transcends language, culture and religion. Clemantine – a fierce storyteller who became a refugee of the Rwandan genocide at age six – called us to remember that as women we must stand together and help share the stories of women who live in silence. “Can we talk about the uncomfortableness of rape?” she asked, “We are women, we know each other. No one else is going to talk about this but us.”
Rye Barcott: “Do something with the community not for the community.”
Participatory development, Rye says, happens when change is driven and owned from within. During Kenyan riots in 2007, when Rye was in Kenya’s largest slum, Kibera, helping to build a clinic in the slum, the people created a human shield around the clinic, holding hands throughout the night, to protect it from the violence. Why did these people risk their lives to save this health center? The people thought of it as their clinic. That’s development we can get behind.
Dr. Lance Plyler: “Over and over I read this Bible verse: Perhaps you had been called to the kingdom for such a time as this.”
Dr. Plyler was in Liberia most of the summer working on the front lines of the Ebola crisis with Samaritans Purse. In June, Dr. Plyler flew to Liberia to serve as a clinician and medical director for Samaritans Purse — one of only two organizations providing clinical care for Ebola. Despite his fears, Dr. Plyler found strength in his faith: “I felt very called. We all did.” We are in awe of his faith, intelligence and bravery. Find out more about the work Samaritan’s Purse is doing to fight Ebola here.
Cindy McCain: “Trafficking is under everyone’s nose. You’ve seen it, you just didn’t know what you were looking at.”
Human trafficking is not something we talk about a lot. But we should. Cindy McCain is leading the charge against modern-day slavery, particularly in the US, and shared heartbreaking personal stories about her own encounters with trafficking. Her first eye-opening experience occurred at a market in India. On her way out the shop, she heard noises under the floorboards. Looking through the cracks, she saw 40-50 sets of eyes looking back up at her; they were the eyes of little girls working in the basement. That haunting moment lit a fire in her that continues to fuel her work to end human trafficking. Talk about a life-changing moment.
Danai Gurira: “Women! They have the answer! Just go to African women. That’s all you need to do.”
Danai Gurira, of Walking Dead fame, delivered an earth-shattering performance from her play about the Liberian war, from the perspective of women in war. After the performance, Danai talked about her experience meeting these women in Liberia. “They did astounding things to make sure that war stopped,” she said. “They’re fearless bold women. It’s no mistake that that’s the first nation that a woman became president of on the continent. It’s the fruits of their labor.”
Mike Henry: “Great movements are usually sparked by an issue. But they also are driven by a bunch of highly committed people. That’s why it’s really important for you to pick that mantle up and run with it.”
Your leaders and members of Congress are interested in what you have to say, says Henry, as he spoke about the importance of Gavi and vaccines. So pick up that “mantle” and make your voice heard for whatever issue you care about! Click here to support childhood vaccines.
Holly Gordon: “How can we know each other without hearing each other’s stories?”
Nick Kristof: “Side by side with the worst of humanity, you invariably see the best.”
Author and journalist Nick Kristof has seen a lot of humanity and he still has hope. That gives us hope as well. Add his newly released book, A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity, to your holiday reading list this year!
Jane Mosbacher-Morris: “To the Market really focuses on how impactful and transformational the dignity of work is. Think about the control you have over your life because you are the master of your own ship.”
Jane’s company works specifically with survivors of abuse, conflict, and disease to help them find dignity through work. “Providing them an opportunity to be economically independent is so critical to the restoration of their human spirit,” she explained, “It’s also so critical because it’s really life saving.” Click here to find out more about To the Market.
Dr. Paul Zeitz: “My twitter feed is @PaulZeitz. Please tweet me too! I’m trying to get up to 600 by the end of the year.”
We couldn’t help laughing at Dr. Zeitz’s enthusiasm for the Twitter-verse. And our audience of Twitter rock-stars was more than happy to help boost his numbers! He did have other very important and inspiring things to say for our panel Change through Better Health: “We are actually blessed. As Americans, we have an opportunity and, I believe, responsibility to address these urgent challenges.” Truth. Also, follow Paul on Twitter and let’s see if we can get him to 700 followers.
Marquesha Babers: “When something bad happens to me, I say ‘thank you for my poem.’”
Thank YOU Marquesha for lighting up our lives. After she performed, we were shocked to learn that this fierce young woman from California was still struggling with homelessness. Watch this incredible teen throw down some mad truth in her poem “Senna”.
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf: “I thank each of you in advance for using the power of your voices on behalf of us here in Liberia but also for girls and women around the world.”
Y’all, the president of Liberia thanked us. President Sirleaf sent the AYA Summit a personal video message that answered some of our pressing Ebola questions. Having the opportunity to hear from this incredible leader definitely tops my list of powerful moments this year.
Click here to read more about our stellar line-up of speakers and the work they are doing to change the lives of girls and women around the world.
You can also find more coverage of this summit from our awesome attendees. These women (and some men, too!) have an incredible online presence (when they tweet people listen!), so we couldn’t have been more honored to have them with us. You can read their reflections and other interesting media in our fancy Flipboard magazine!