by Maren Frye, student at Berkeley High School and intern at YWCA Berkeley/Oakland.

I went to the Alliance for Girls’ Conference: Together We Rise as part of a school club, Berkeley High School Stop Harassing, which aims to stop the culture of sexual harassment at our high school and support victims. It was a truly amazing experience. While there, I heard some of the most intelligent, inspiring, all-around amazing women I had ever met speak about their experiences of sexism and discrimination, and how they overcame those obstacles. One talk in particular stood out to me; when the president of EMILY’s List, Stephanie Schriock, presented about the need for women in public office and the work EMILY’s list was doing to support them, I heard the call to action. In that moment, I felt so inspired to use my power as a woman to help all of us around the country that I made a decision—I was going to run for president when I grew up! While I don’t think that’s probable, I do think I want to go into public office now (just a lesser one). It’s so important for women to be part of the institutions that make changes that affect them; we can’t let men decide what’s best for us, WE need to do that. And while I was at the conference, I learned about an opportunity to do just that. I picked up a flyer about the programs at the Berkeley YWCA and knew immediately that this was a chance to make the changes that had seemed abstract and distant in my head, but were now tangible.

The work I’ve been doing at the YWCA is exactly what all the speakers at the conference urged us to do: empowering women. As part of the End Human Trafficking Internship, I’ve worked with a team incredibly passionate people, both girls and boys, to raise awareness about how human trafficking affects our community and the lives of people all around the world. In the Advocacy Internship, we’ve written letters to senators urging them to vote no on the Better Care Reconciliation Act, written op-ed pieces about sexual violence on campus, and created a handbook to distribute to Cal students about sexual assault resources and Title IX rights. These programs have helped to lift the voices of women everywhere to whom society has said, “Your rights aren’t important.” Because our rights are important, and we need to fight for them. And both the Alliance for Girls organization and the YWCA are doing that right now!