An Inspirational Class Act

Posted on July 09, 2014, by Amanda Gagne

When I was growing up in Connecticut, I never thought about life far beyond my own small town until a women’s organization was created at my high school my junior year. Woodland Worldwide was inspired by Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women World (HTS), which opened my eyes to the oppression women face for the first time, and allowed me to discover my purpose in life. From that moment on I have dedicated my life to promoting women’s rights and continue to grow as a leader and an activist with HTS as a constant source of inspiration.

I became a student leader in Woodland Worldwide as I created and delivered presentations about HTS to surrounding schools. I also helped organize and run our annual road race that raises funds for scholarships and various organizations including one that supports survivors of human trafficking, which we formed a relationship with because of HTS. I then helped this organization to develop a student action kit and attended the 2011 Vital Voices Global Leadership Awards Ceremony.

In 2011, I enrolled to study International Relations and Diplomacy, Women and Gender Studies, and Spanish at Seton Hall University in order to learn how to best protect human rights around the world. In 2012, I became the first HTS Campus Ambassador on my campus, which has been a dream come true as I have received unique support from the Campus Ambassador team, and my fellow ambassadors who share my passion for the movement. Due to my connection with non-profits, I also achieved my dream of interning with a foundation that fights human trafficking and I will continue my extensive work with sex trafficking as my career develops. I also participated in an interview with organizations that support the Campus Ambassador Program and was later invited to and attended the Millennials Matter: Mobilizing and Motivating a New Generation for Gender Equality in America conference with one of the leaders of the program.

During my sophomore year I also helped to establish our own chapter of Women for Women International and continue to serve as the President for the third year in a row. I am entering my second year as a peer educator for the Sexual Assault and Violence Education Team and am involved in our chapter of Amnesty International as well as the Division of Volunteer Efforts. HTS remains the foundation of my work which includes two Half the Sky screenings, Modern Day Slavery: Sex Trafficking in the US and Abroad, and SHUTrue Feminism tabling. In addition, I was awarded the On the Shoulders We Stand Award and was chosen to attend New Leadership NJ in 2013.

Amanda with Zainab Salbi, founder of Women for Women International.

Amanda with Zainab Salbi, founder of Women for Women International.

Through these experiences, I have faced adversity when trying to gather support as both men and women believe that the issues we are discussing are solely pertinent to women. I was thus motivated to create the A Call to Men: A Campaign for Equality with the message that sexism is not just a “woman’s issue,” as both genders are equally discriminated against and are necessary for the achievement of true equality. I applied for a HTS grant in the beginning stages of planning, and the support I received was undeniably beneficial and the campaign was the most successful program we have hosted. A different event was held every week throughout the month of April including a presentation by Ted Bunch from A Call to Men, Toys and Sexism: Is It All Just Fun and Games, a presentation about the definition of manhood by Dr. King Mott, the Clothesline Project, and a closing ceremony. We will continue the campaign in the upcoming year and after giving presentations about the campaign to my high school. Additionally, I have decided to create a program to teach high school students about gender equality for my senior thesis.

Amanda Gagne is currently a Half the Sky Movement Campus Ambassador at Seton Hall University. You can reach her at amandadgagne@gmail.com and watch for her name in the news, as we are sure she will make quite the splash!