For five years, US-based Feminist Campus, which is the student sector of the Feminist Majority Foundation host thousands of young and eager feminists in high school and college in Washington, DC at the National Young Feminist Leadership Conference. Founded in 1987, the FMF is a national, “…cutting edge organization dedicated to women’s equality, reproductive health, and non-violence. In all spheres, FMF utilizes research and action to empower women economically, socially, and politically.”
At NYFLC, feminists can expect to leave with tangible skills with which they can organize, persuade, vote, march and more in the name of feminism. The conference trains the young feminists through intimate, hands-on workshops, panels, onsite activism, keynotes and congressional lobbying. That’s right – the Monday after training on Saturday and Sunday, NYFLC sends them out to lobby their local legislators on Capitol Hill.
I started going to NYFLC my junior year of college, so this was my third year. When I first attended in 2016, I was in the beginnings of my feminist journey. I really didn’t know what the word intersectional means. I was just starting to learn my duties as both an ally and activist. My first year, there were folks demanding more gender neutral language. Even if I didn’t know exactly what the reason was behind that, I was supportive and was willing to learn.
Feminism n. the policy, practice or advocacy of political, economic, and social equality for women.
Even though I attended this year as more of full-fledged feminist, I am still learning. I approached this year with eyes just as open and a soul just as excited as I was the first year. Attending this year meant a little more to me, because I made a pilgrimage down from Massachusetts. I drove down after working my 9-5 with my friends that also graduated in May with me, and arrived at the conference bright and early the next morning with only four hours of sleep under my belt that night.
The morning started off with a powery plenary panel made up of reproductive justice activists, latinx activists, an activist from Flint, MI and perhaps one of the most powerful speakers of the weekend – a student from Stoneman Douglas high school, where there was a recent, jarring school shooting in Parkland, FL. The first panel I attended was about intersectionality and reproductive justice. At that panel, we learned how to make the conversations about RJ more inclusive. One somewhat obvious but simple way of doing this is hiring POCs as consultants or as employees in the organizations, so they have a say.
I also attended a pane about the intersection of reproductive justice and faith. A major quote that stuck with me from this panel was an activist saying, “I am pro-choice because of my faith and not in spite of it.” This was personally a powerful panel for me to attend, and see the organization Catholics for Choice, as I struggled with the intersection of being Catholic and pro-choice growing up. My favorite panel that I attended was about storytelling and feminism. The panel was filled with women from Free Women Writers, which is non-profit organization composed of writers, students, and activists based in Afghanistan and the diaspora and working for a more equal and just Afghanistan. By writing on this platform and telling their stories, these women bring awareness to the struggles of womanhood in Afghanistan.
On the last day, I attended an intersectionality workshop. In my small group, I met student activists from all over the country. After learning about the struggles that the other students face with their groups, I realized that we’re all facing similar problems. We were able to offer each other advice and learn from each other. We actually started a group chat.
I hope that you get to experience an NYFLC some day or something just as awesome. Until next time!