Millsaps College students have been recognized by the Afghan Institute of Learning for their efforts to raise scholarships for girls in Afghanistan. (Millsaps College is a featured donor on the Institute's website). Students' efforts began at a Millsaps screening of the PBS documentary Half the Sky, which tells stories of women turning "oppression into opportunity." The 200 students, faculty, and staff in attendance felt the need to respond to the rampant oppression of women around the world, so they began fundraising through the new crowdfunding platform Catapult.org.
Lily Womble is a European Studies major who hopes to complete an internship at a humanitarian agency or perhaps move to India or Kenya to work with organizations that help empower women and girls after graduating from Millsaps in 2013. Read her blog at Smart Girls Out Loud.
Led by Lily Womble, a junior from Birmingham, Ala., students participated in several grassroots fundraising efforts. One such effort, called "Cups for Change," saw 20 students collecting spare change from peers and professors while also raising awareness for the cause. Students at the College raised $1,200 in just two months, which enabled five girls to attend primary school for a year.
What has your experience as a Millsaps student been like?
I have been transformed by my Millsaps experience. In this beautiful, personal environment, professors have cultivated my passion for learning and have pushed me to grow in ways I thought impossible. As a Millsaps student I have been given the opportunity to shape my own education with the help of Millsaps faculty and staff. They have expanded my knowledge of a subject by providing real world application of my studies. This unique style of learning has manifested itself in a wide array of internships and conferences. This academic community has challenged and encouraged me to strive toward excellence, and that has defined my personal and academic hopes for the future.
What made you select Millsaps?
I chose Millsaps because when I visited, I felt at home. I was looking for a school with a community that was invested in serving others, and that was obviously and inherently woven into the fabric of this school. I visited several similar schools, but the location in a capital city and the mission of service, I knew I could effect change.
What makes Millsaps stand out from other colleges?
Its focus on global and local perspectives, small class sizes, professors who are experts in their field, the location in Jackson, and the school's emphasis on partnering with the community all distinguish Millsaps as an incredible and unique college.
What activities on campus are you involved with?
I am a resident assistant, which has served as an invaluable growing experience both professionally and personally. I was a participant on the committee for civic engagement in the Millsaps strategic planning process. I am currently a campus ambassador for Half the Sky Movement: turning oppression into opportunity for women worldwide. In this job I have organized a screening of the documentary Half the Sky for the Millsaps and Jackson community, and with the help of several passionate women and men on campus, have started an education and fundraising campaign for girls and women in the developing world. This is an exciting time for advocacy at Millsaps.
Womble with Half the Sky author Nicholas Kristof. Read an article written by Lily for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation website.
Tell me about your women's rights work. How did you get started with that?
In high school I wrote a research paper on sex trafficking in the US, and my perspective on life completely changed. The Polaris Project estimates that there are 100,000 children enslaved in the sex trade in the US each year. How could I go on living this privileged life when there were hundreds of thousands of girls, just like me, who were enslaved? Ever since, I have had a burning desire to learn as much as I can and to do whatever possible to bring awareness and justice to the oppression of women. This has lead to an internship with the Women's Fund of Mississippi, the Association of Women's Rights in Development conference in Istanbul, Turkey, and now to the Half the Sky ambassadorship. I intend to keep going.
What made you decide to blog? How did that come about and where has it led you?
Last year I stumbled upon an organization called Smart Girls at the Party which lifts up "girls who are changing the world by being themselves." Started by comedienne Amy Poehler and friend Meredith Walker, this project creates webisodes of passionate smart girls and encourages them to go after their dreams. Their work seemed to encapsulate my passions, and reminded me of the dozens of women and girls I meet every day in Jackson who were doing the same.
I started the blog Smart Girls Out Loud to highlight these inspiring people pursuing their dreams specifically in the south. Their stories needed to be heard. I have learned through the process of writing these blog posts that people are hungry for hope that their dreams are possible; young women are hungry for mentors, and professional women are hungry to see the next generation of women succeed. The blog has offered a space to better connect this global sisterhood that is necessary to bring change. It has personally effected my life by providing a connection to new friends and mentors who have helped me immensely.
What career plans do you have? Have you selected a major? If so, what?
I am a European Studies major focusing on the roles of women in the developing world. I will graduate in December of 2013 and hopefully go on to an internship or fellowship at an organization like CARE or the International Rescue Committee in New York or Washington, D.C. Or I would love to go to India or Kenya to work with organizations who focus on the empowerment of girls and women. Graduate school is a possibility, but I want to gain as much real world experience as I can in the field of development before I decide on a program. I am all about dreaming big and with the support of Millsaps College my dreams keep getting bigger all the time.