All voices are vital; each has a story |

All voices are vital; each has a story

On Wednesday, Sept. 6, we were fortunate enough to hear from Vital Voices president and CEO Alyse Nelson. As I walked into the auditorium, I was full of excitement and high expectations, as I knew that Alyse’s words needed to be heard. She did not disappoint.

Vital Voices is a global partnership that helps dreams and visions of women around the world become reality. As president and CEO, Alyse has had the opportunity to hear the stories of women across the globe. Through this, she has gained experience and insight that allow her to stand in front of 150 teenagers, and later the Vail Symposium, and tell us why feminine voices are so essential.

She began her presentation with a video telling the story of a Somali doctor whose desire to help people grew her rural clinic into a 400-bed hospital. This was followed by countless stories of women changing the worlds that they live in.

On top of providing inspirational examples, Alyse crushed the common stereotype of feminism. She disproved that feminism is the act of man hating and thoroughly explained that feminism is a partnership. It is balance and equality between different genders, races, sexual orientations and religions. She illustrated this through the analogy: “Imagine if the world only used half of its energy; that is obviously inefficient. But that is exactly what happens when men and women are not treated equally.”

Alyse later addressed all of the young men in the audience, telling them that this is not a purely estrogen-lead endeavor, but that if change is going to be made, we need their alliance. Of course, there were different reactions to this, but the message was clear: Things are not going to change until we all work to change them.

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To conclude, Alyse impassioned me. The women she works with are living proof that we do not have to settle. While sitting and listening to Alyse speak, my dreams began to seem more realistic. I believe that I can change the world, I believe that the girl sitting in front of me will fight for social justice, my cousin in Baltimore will petition for equal pay, and my friend in Texas will stand up against sexual harassment.

Most importantly, I recognized just how vital the voices that I hear every day, while placing my coffee order or saying “hi” to a friend in the hall, really are. Each of those voices has a story, and each of those voices has a dream.

Hannah Heckman


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