Two Camas High School students recently had a unique opportunity to learn more about the issues that impact women worldwide.
Seniors Corrine Bintz and Kris Ahn are the founding members of the Girls Learn Club at CHS, which they established last year.
According to the Girls Learn International website, it is designed to educate and energize U.S. students in the global movement for girls access to education, and pairs chapters in middle and high schools with partner schools in developing nations.
The CHS chapter has approximately 20 members, which includes a mix of girls and boys. Discussion and activities focus on specific human rights issues. Last year, the focus was on getting the club started and chartered at the high school.
This fall, the co-presidents turned their focus to the upcoming Commission on the Status of Women conference in New York City in March.
“We both applied for the conference in the fall, and were ecstatic that we were both accepted to attend,” Ahn said.
The conference is organized by the United Nations and held at its headquarters. Bintz and Ahn spent the week of March 12 to 18 attending workshops, networking events and presentations about issues that impact women worldwide. Topics ranged from workplace discrimination to violence against girls and women.
“There were so many different and interesting people that we had the opportunity to talk to,” Bintz said. “There was really a broad range of information.”
Added Ahn, “We talked a lot about how girls and women experience empowerment differently. Our experience is definitely a lot different than someone in a different country. Not only that, but it is different in Camas than somewhere like L.A.”
Fundraising to earn the money to be able to attend the conference was one of the hurdles Bintz and Ahn had to overcome. Teachers Tyler Morgan and Sam Greene performed a benefit concert at Loowit Brewery in Vancouver. The girls attended the event and talked with attendees about Girls Learn and the club’s goals.
The event raised $500, but the teens felt that the real benefit was in their teachers learning more about why they founded the club and what they hoped to accomplish.
“I think most people came because they wanted to support students who were doing something pretty cool, but they left knowing why we wanted to do it,” Ahn said.
As for the conference itself, both Bintz and Ahn came away with a new understanding of empowerment.
“For me, it was really the value of personal experience,” Bintz said. “Everyone at the conference had similar objectives. They were all there for gender parity. Where you were from and issues you faced that affect women were very different.”
For Ahn, it was the experience of learning what girls can do to cultivate change that had the biggest impact.
“There was a girl in California who got a bill passed in Congress because she contacted her representative at a young age, and was persistent,” Ahn said. “There are things we can all do, even if they are on a smaller scale.”
Bintz and Ahn will be leaving the club behind when they graduate in a few weeks, but are encouraging the underclassmen to continue to move forward.
“There are infinite possibilities for people to become involved in the club,” Bintz said. “It is open to all and everyone can be influential.”