Young Women in the West: Geography Should Not Determine Success

October 28, 2016

On Sunday, October 23, Erin East, Capacity Building and Planning Associate at The Hunger Project, gave a speech at The Hunger Project’s Annual Fall Event during a session on women, girls and self-reliance. Below is the video and transcript of her candid and inspiring speech.

Hello everyone. You probably don’t know who I am because I haven’t held office and I don’t have a doctorate. I am Hunger Project staff member and they asked me to speak, and here I am. When I found out I was speaking immediately after Madame Diogo I wish I ha
dn’t agreed so quickly.

On the agenda I’m asked to speak on behalf of young women in the West. And that’s a big task and I don’t know if I’m really equipped to speak for all women, but I will try and speak for probably what I deem appropriate. So I typed up a little something.erin-east-sunday-event

I could speak about how young women in the West prefer our nails done and our thumbs constantly typing away on our phones. Or I could speak about our friend troubles, our acne, school stress, or even the difficulties of finding a first job. Many like to paint young women of the West as apathetic and vain; selfishly caught up in our privileged lives, concerned more about how many likes our Instagram posts get than how many points make up our GPAs. But as with all generalizations, young women in the West cannot, and should not, be painted with a broad brush; and neither should be young women anywhere. If I am here to speak on behalf of young women in the West, I will do my best to portray the wide range of possibilities and opportunities that may characterize a young Western woman.

I am not speaking from a place of wisdom attained through watching the world for many years. I am not speaking from a place where I have had to age faster than any girl should because it is demanded by the circumstances in which I live. I am not speaking from a place of hardship, difficulty, or struggle. I am speaking for myself, with only my experiences to guide my words.

I have been lucky enough to have received a fantastic education, supported all the way by my two very caring parents. I have been blessed with strong and loyal friendships, filled with laughter and love. I am healthy, well-fed, and sleep on a soft bed under a sturdy roof. This description of my life should not be dependent of my Western situation. Geography should not decide fulfillment. Geography should not determine success. North, south, east, or west—in a perfect world, those descriptors don’t matter.

However, it is not a perfect world, as we in this room know too well. I won’t list the inexhaustible lists of problems, concerns, crises, and emergencies. We know they’re there. They’re present. So what can young women in the West do? What can we bring to the table? Does our perspective offer any insights or nuggets of wisdom that might otherwise be unheard or unavailable? In my opinion, the best thing young Western women can do for young women everywhere is to listen. By listening, we give our most sought after asset: our attention.

We should give our ears and also our hearts. Western women are not, as a rule, vain. We have a vast capacity to care and to love. And that is one thing I know to be true of all young women everywhere. As trendsetters and trend-followers, we can really put in vogue a new mindset, a new frame of being that is about caring, and loving, and investing in a future that matters for everyone, and works for everyone, and is just for everyone. We have an opportunity to create a new identity for ourselves.

Self-reliance is not only a goal; it is a journey. And for young women in the West, our journey of self-reliance can best be described as learning enough to survive on our own. For young women everywhere, self-reliance is a frame of mind that we achieve when believe in ourselves: when we know that we can run the world. Thank you.

Learn more:

Highlights of our 2016 Annual Falal Gala