As a woman, what personal freedom do you value most?
For our Great July Giveaway, in honor of Independence Day, we asked you to share the personal freedom you value most. You responded with creativity, humor, wisdom and a great deal of thought.
Responses ranged from the freedom to be feminine, to the freedom to choose – anything and everything that life has to offer, to the freedom to marry, to the freedom to work and raise a family, to the freedom to vote -- and more.
We’ve chosen our winning response (who will receive 2 tickets to the conference, the chance to interview Robert Redford, and a meet-and-greet with Maria Shriver) and three honorable mentions, below.
Estella Owoimaha, 20s:
I value my freedom to defy gravity and create change. I can do so because great women have set great examples. I can be black, female, mother, lesbian, warrior and poet if I wanted to because Audre Lorde has set such a great example. I can hold a public office and run for president because Hillary Clinton has. I can own a television network and build an entire school if I wanted to because Oprah Winfrey already has. Though they have set the bar pretty high, I can surpass Lorde, Clinton and Winfrey. They are just three of the many women that serve as inspiration, guidance and standards for success. However, even if there weren't great female examples to follow, I value my freedom to be the "first" at accomplishing some task.
My name is Estella Owoimaha. I am a Minerva Leader of 2009 and for the rest of my life. I am an African American woman and I am 21 years old. I’m a lot of things. Most importantly, I am capable; capable of greatness. When I became a Minerva Leader, I also accepted the responsibility of “architect of change”. I know limits are all mental. I have the ability to defy gravity, as so eloquently stated by the Elphaba of Wicked. As an African American woman, seems like most of my accomplishments defy the laws of gravity. I am okay with that because I embrace challenge with the intent of success and triumph.
Susie Wittering, 50s:
As American women we literally swim in an endless sea of personal freedoms, our lives limited only by the shorelines we create in our own minds. Trying to pick one freedom to value most seemed like trying to pick a favorite child - until I saw an outrageous photographic image on the newsstand. A young Afghani woman who’s nose had been cut off by the Taliban, leapt from the cover of a magazine, her defiant eyes broadcasting the true state of freedom for women worldwide: What happens to one of us can happen to all of us. The voices of hate and oppression can overrun elected governments, stomp down freedoms, terrorize all people and spread in a nano-second on our planet made small by technology. But so can the voices of logic, tolerance and respect for human rights. With the freedom to seek political change, to assemble with others, to speak out against the government or other groups that violate basic human rights, we can make sure that those who did this to our sister can never hide from our scrutiny. Our voice is our strength and our best tool if we are to be true agents of change.
Erica Marie, 20s:
To be an emotional being, is for me, the personal freedom that I value the most. For many people, this seems like such a basic expression and freedom, something that is instinctual and not controlled or suppressed. As a young woman, 23, I look out to the world and see so many of us filing away our feelings, holding our laughter and burying our grief. I see a mother months after her daughter’s death, tell herself to not cry-that it’s not ok. That she needs to be moving on, pushing forward and suppress her feelings so others view her as strong. I see a man after loosing his job of 35 years, hide his emotions and become distant and closed to his loved ones. So many people restrain their emotions. They fail to be themselves and what they feel at that moment and as a result, become numb to their true self. They become numb to life…to living. I want to be emotional. I want to laugh, cry and love so hard that after I die, the Earth will still feel the vibrations of all of the pains and joys I have experienced-it is this freedom which I value most.
I value the freedom to tweet. Whatever I want to say, I can do it in 140 characters or less and it's broadcast to 1,200+ followers. I can inspire action among those I may never meet face-to-face. I can shape my own personal brand. I am not defined by the family I come from, the degree or job I have, or where I live (though I love and am proud of all those things!). I brand myself with my passions for learning, technology, friendship, and design. These passions are tied together in the mission of the nonprofit campaign I founded, She's the First, which leverages our online and offline networks and our creativity, so we can power sponsorships for a girl's education in a country where she does NOT receive it for free.
My dream as a 24-year-old entrepreneur is to open the channels for young women globally to have the same access to an education and technology, so they not only learn from the books, but also through their peers worldwide. When Twitter asks us, ‘What’s happening?,’ we have the freedom to determine that. Use your tweets wisely to change the world, 140 characters at a time.