youthSpark Igniters: Global Women’s Club (The Westminster Schools)

By Haley Vincent, youthSpark Intern and co-founder of the Global Women’s Club

Right before I started high school at Westminster in Atlanta, I had to finish my summer reading of one book focused around a nonprofit or a charity issue. I had no idea what to read, but somehow through many Google searches I found a women’s rights book called Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn. The book gave an overview of women’s rights in the developing world, and one of the many issues it focused on was sex trafficking. I had never heard of the issue before, and I could not believe what I was reading. I was fifteen at the time, and these girls were my age or younger, being taken against their will and raped for profit. When I started school, I knew I wanted to do something with the information I had just learned, but I had no idea what that would be. What I wanted most of all was for everyone who, like me, had never heard or talked about sex trafficking, to understand the issue and feel compelled to help stop it.

As I was trying out different methods of educating people about sex trafficking, I was fortunate to meet three girls in my grade at Westminster who had the same passion as I did. They wanted to start a club to inform the school about trafficking and give students realistic ways they could get involved in the fight against it. The three girls and I talked about ideas and eventually created the Global Women’s Club, a club generally focused on women’s rights with a specific, trafficking- focused chapter: the youthSpark Igniters. We wanted a club created for both young men and young women that addressed the issue of women’s rights and how it affects us directly. At the same time we were able to use youthSpark’s club ideas and curriculum to incorporate our passion for ending sex trafficking into our broad idea for the club.

It took a few months and a lot of persistence to get the Global Women’s Club off the ground, but we were able to launch our first meeting at the end of the 2012- 2013 year when we were in 9th grade. It was so encouraging to see how many people were interested in our club and were excited at the need for a club with a focus on women finally being met. At our first meeting we had about 25 students show up and join, and today, at the end of the 2013- 2014 year we have over 90 members. We have both male and female members, although most members are female, and we have been able to educate and empower our school through the club with various events and meetings. At the beginning of the 2013- 2014 school year, we held a school wide assembly on sex trafficking with speakers including myself, another founder of the Global Women’s Club, and two speakers from youthSpark. We talked about trafficking both abroad, based on my experience on a mission trip to India, and domestically, based on the first hand knowledge and statistics that the youthSpark speakers had to offer.

A few representatives from the Global Women’s Club were also privileged to attend the Georgia Women’s Assembly in November where we sat in on workshops focused on different women’s rights issues in the state of Georgia, one of which was about sex trafficking in Georgia and run by youthSpark. As a result of attending that conference, we put up a bulletin board of pictures featuring over 25 students holding up white boards with the prompt “I need feminism because…” and writing their reason below. Some of the responses included “because women are not a minority”, “because one in six women will be a victim of sexual assault at some point in her life”, and “because of how people will react when they see these pictures”. We have spoken to elementary school girls about the problems they will face as girls in the Junior High and how to prepare for them, and I had the opportunity to speak to a Junior High class about sex trafficking.

We were going to attend Lobby Day in February at the Capitol along with the same Junior High class, but unfortunately we ended up not being able to go because it got re-scheduled to during our spring break. However, we are all determined to go to Lobby Day next year because we know that one of the most powerful tools to end sex trafficking is the law. The Global Women’s Club also holds meetings every month each focused on a different women’s rights issue. Topics have included general feminism, sex trafficking, women in politics, and sexism at Westminster, among others. Our club is on Facebook as a group where our members can post about different things related to women’s rights and problems that they face so we can help each other even when we aren’t meeting in person. We will continue with more events and meetings in the future, and we couldn’t be more excited for what next year holds. Since the Global Women’s Club is very new, we know that what we have done so far is just the beginning of our work, and we can’t wait to hit the ground running when the next school year starts!