Sunday, February 5, 2012

Little girls? No. Strong women

I entered a session titled Change starts with a passion at the Ann Arbor Reskilling Festival yesterday and had no idea who I was about to meet.

As we have seen with the Civil Rights Movement, the protests against the Vietnam War, as well as with the Occupy movement, it is through youth that leadership is exemplified. This is because it is the youth that are most imaginative, the most free in spirit, and most inquisitive and questioning about norms. They are, therefore, the most discerning about the realities of our actions. (More about this soon.) But many times, when we think of "the youth", we think of college students and the recently employed. We tend not to think of middle schoolers and high schoolers. But we ought to...

What started off as an effort to understand why orangutans are endangered has turned into a massive campaign to rid our food of palm oil, the plantations of which are also destroying biologically diverse habitats and releasing massive amounts of greenhouse gases through deforestation and peat demolition. This effort started off five years ago, when two Ann Arbor seventh graders, Madison Vorva (on right in picture below) and Rhiannon Tomtishen (on left), took on an advocacy project as girl scouts. They realised that Girl Scouts cookies contain palm oil, and have since been on a mission to rid our foods of palm oil.

Rhiannon and Madison (from
I met Madison, now a junior in high school, yesterday, and was awestruck and inspired by her maturity, her confidence, her passion. It takes a whole lot of all of those things to create a movement and endure the subsequent downs and challenges. Five years in, their movement is really gaining traction.

I am hoping to bring them to speak to students here at the university. There's so much to learn from these strong women. More thoughts soon. For now, check out their TEDxRedmond talk.

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