This week’s Women’s March was inspirational to many, and it was especially so for us because so many of our campers and staff attended marches around the country.
We love sharing updates from our former campers, who are doing such great things! Paula attended YEA Camp 6 summers ago, and was a counselor in training for us the following summer. We are thrilled to still be in touch with her and that she is sharing her story with us of attending her first rally.
By Paula Orrego
Former YEA Camper
When I attended YEA Camp as a 17-year-old in 2011, I learned about the issues facing women today beyond what I was experiencing in my day-to-day life. I learned about the “glass ceiling” and how women make less than 80 cents to a man’s dollar, and even less if she is a woman of color or has a disability. I learned about modern female slavery and how it exists today. Because of YEA Camp, I gained not only new knowledge of gender equality, but also the confidence to go out into my community and take a stand for my rights.
Being a woman in a Western society is a blessing but can be emotionally exhausting as well. On the one hand, I am proud to be a woman. Many generations of women fought for the rights I have today, including the right to vote and have a say in my government. The struggle has been and continues to be long and hard, and I am grateful for the women of my past.
However, being a woman can be exhausting because we as a society still have ways to go to reach gender equality.
Starting at the age of 12, I have been catcalled and whistled at by older men. I remember the first time I was stared at by men–my mother and I crossed the street to a doughnut shop, and on the other side, my mother told me to quickly walk into the shop because she did not like the way the men at the corner were eyeing me.
Now that I am older, I am aware of other awful things that could happen to me as a woman. I could get shot at for not accepting a guy’s advances. I could make friends with a seemingly nice guy, only to find out later he is a threat to me and my family. Many women, even at my age, have experienced these atrocities.
This is one of the reasons I went to the Women’s March on January 21st. I am tired of living with anxiety over the men I meet in my life.
I was not expecting to see so many single men at the march. I knew husbands and fathers would be coming to the march with the women and girls in their lives, but I had never expected so many single men coming because they supported and respected women in general.
These men did not come to pick up women, either. They came with their signs and marched alongside me, for me and all women.
Marching with people of different races and gender identities for the rights of a minoritized group I belong to was a touching moment in my life. My first rally ever was a reminder of how many people care about the same things I do, and I am so happy there are so many men who believe in gender equality just as much as women do.
You inspire us, Paula!
Do you know a 12-17 year-old who attended the march would love YEA Camp? Register this week, by Sunday Jan 29 at midnight, and get 10% off tuition! Go to www.YEACamp.org for the dates and details and to register, and use the code “WomensMarch” for the discount.