Nearly two weeks later, I am still sharing messages I heard at the White House’s State of Women Summit with the staff here at Break the Cycle. Women’s advocates of all races, gender identities, sexualities, religions, and careers unified to show the world that women will not be silent, they will not be pushed aside, and they will change the world. The summit celebrated the progress in women’s issues so far, and discussed solutions for the areas that need continued work. One element that resounded throughout the day’s speeches was that young people’s voices are critical to advancing the cultural change. While you probably heard a number of stories from the day’s presentations, I’ll share a few with you that stood out as important to young girls specifically.
To start, Vice President Joe Biden, a champion for stopping violence against women, pointed out that Millennials are “the most progressive, tolerant generation” thus far. He added that for this generation “it’s not about changing the laws; it’s about changing our culture.” Yes, this generation fights for education reform on their rights and encourages policy reform with new bills, but this generation also fights to change attitudes of violence in their schools and communities. Millennials are half of the population that we serve right now, so we know better than anyone that this statement rings true.
Later in the summit, Kerry Washington, actress and advocate, gave a powerful speech on the silent monster that is financial abuse. Understanding financial abuse means understanding one of the many complicated reasons why people stay in abusive relationships. It’s not as easy as just walking out the door. You have to plan for safety, financial security, and the emotional aftermath of leaving. It may seem like financial abuse isn’t a problem for young people, but we cannot forget about the teen parents or couples living together that share financial responsibility. No matter the age of the person, financial abuse is real, and it was gratifying to see awareness spread on a national, highly-publicized platform.
Finally, Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, founder of muslimgirl.com, encouraged us to “pass the mic” to the voiceless instead of speaking for them. At Break the Cycle we have always believed in the autonomy of young people experiencing abuse. THEY are the experts on their experience, and we must listen to them to make an effective cultural change. We are taking that to the next level with a new youth program thanks to the generous support of Verizon.
At Break the Cycle, we know young people are the key to changing tomorrow. By having powerful visible role models like the women at the Summit and the men who respect and support women, by having events endorsed by the President of the United States that support the advancement of women, we are creating space for cultural change. We will build a generation that tears down the ideas of toxic masculinity instead of perpetuating them, and we will do that by improving the State of Women.
If you haven’t had an opportunity to see any of the speeches from the event or just want to see them again the entire summit is available for viewing here. In the mean time, view our list of programs to bring healthy relationship education to your school and community.
To changing tomorrow together,