You’re not “interested”?

Threatened,
Disorganized,
Losing.

Growing up in Orlando, I wanted to “get into modeling.” My mother was on a fixed budget, though we had some spending money. We did not have the budget for my “I must go to modeling school” expense. However, my mom surprised me, got a new high-interest Choice credit card and paid for the most expensive Modeling & Image school in Orlando. I will never forget the expense she bore, nor would I forget what I had learned at school. Over 10–12 weeks, my mother would drop me off at class and pick me up, this is where I learned valuable skills and lifelong lessons about image and advancing your career. Those lessons allowed me to work in the Modeling industry earning money throughout my teenage years, in fashion shows, print, commercials, etc., before I left for college.

Three decades later, I am an accomplished modern day renaissance woman. I’ve used those lessons from my youth, over and over again. I have heard extraordinary speakers, traveled extensively throughout the world, and run successful businesses. But, something was unsettling, there was a mysterious undercurrent creating inner turbulence. Jolting awake, in the early morning hours before the sun could flood the bedroom, I realized I hadn’t done a damn thing to support women’s rights. Why was that important?

As things go, I was recently updating my Curriculum Vitae and casually noticed I could have used phrases, such as, “the first female…”, “the only woman…”, “the only women out of…”, to a nauseating extreme. On that morning, I realized that I was able to disrupt the progressive narrative about women, but I had done nothing to secure its prosperous growth.

And that is the problem; women between the ages of 35–55 have done very little to maintain the equality milestones our predecessors created. In 1919, women stood outside the White House and demanded that they are allowed to vote. New laws in the 1920s would promote women’s health and education. In the 1960s and 70s, feminists guaranteed, under the law, limited equal rights in the workplaces of universities and colleges and secured the use of contraception, along with abortions rights.

Now we approach the 3rd Wave of Feminism, which is quietly protesting social reform against people’s unconscious biases. But, we have not taken care of the 2nd Wave, this newest generation is running with a grassroots movement that does not have a platform to build on. Our current government is still not set to guarantee women equal pay or representation; and the abortion issue, along with women’s health rights, is still on the chopping block almost monthly.

To this end, I challenged myself to promote projects that will support, encourage, and inspire women to know their worth and demand their equal rights. I needed to pick up where my generation dropped off.

I founded a symposium, Women Inspiring Change and Community Development (WICCD), pulling my weight and pushing women further. As I reached out to my generation, the new guards from my iconic past, for support, I was shocked by their complacent personal agenda. The bottom line was when I looked at the group of people I was surrounded by; it was easy for me to think I was accomplishing a lot. Because compared to many of them, I was the only one advocating for women. The powerful women I looked up to from my youth had been replaced. And there was the fault in my thinking; I needed to be the weakest link so that I can be pushed to do better, we can be better, women can be better. I must grow, when I’ve reached that goal, I need to stretch out and be better.

I need to say to my generation, what gives you the right to tell me you’re not “interested” in the promotion, protection, and advancement of women? What gives you the right, to hinder young girls with your faulted thinking of “we have it all”? Because we do not have it all. Why has my generation become comfortable? Do you know what it takes for women to become equal? Someone, some group, is waiting for us to fail. Now, what are you going to do about it?

You must get up. If we are not where we want to be, you must sacrifice. Don’t take your great ideas to the graveyard.

What are you going to do with your time? You have wasted almost a half century, and things have not become better. We are slipping. You need to get back up and push yourself, push your pain to where you need to be. Your pain will move you from where you are today to where you want to be in the future.

You have an opportunity of a lifetime. If you want this to be your decade, you must give up the trivial. Stretch, work day and night, and reach for your unfolding future. We are inches away from losing all those rights the women and men before us had struggled to achieve. You don’t want it bad enough if you want to relax on the weekends. You can’t relax, you must get up and decide how you are going to fix this it. We need to teach valuable skills and life-long lessons emphasizing that Women’s Rights are invaluable to our society. Teach young girls that poise and grace can exist with grit and passion. Because this is a long hard fight, do you have the skill and determination to stay in the game? I do; challenge me, be stronger than me, make us all reach towards a better future for Women.

Jenneffer Pulapaka

#womeninspirechange

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