On March 19th Alicia Clow, grade 12, and Sofie Kusaba, grade 11, representing ASIJ and SAGE (Students Advocating for Gender Equality), had the opportunity to meet with First Ladies Michelle Obama and Akie Abe in a roundtable discussion on women’s education around the globe. Alicia and Sofie were two of only a few high school students invited to participate in the discussion which was largely comprised of college-aged students.
Alicia Clow reflects on meeting with these two influential women:
My father told my brother last week, “… I don’t think that’s very likely, but if you had asked me last month if your sister would be in the Asahi newspaper with Michelle Obama and Akie Abe, I would’ve said that’s not very likely.”
My best friend Melanie Uno, Julia Sasanuma and I started SAGE, Students Advocating Gender Equality, in our Junior year after Melanie happened to stumble across the Asian University for Women (AUW), the university we now support. SAGE strives to not only raise money toward scholarships to the university, but also to raise awareness about gender inequality and education in and out of our community.
Especially this year, SAGE, now over 90 active members who meet at least once a week, has made amazing progress. In the past two years we have raised over ¥1.2 million and have sponsored one full-ride scholarship to AUW as well as projects that do not directly support the university, but still support our cause. I have had amazing opportunities through the network and publicity of my club. Most recently, I was able to participate in a roundtable experience with Michelle Obama and Akie Abe.
Before we listened to speeches by the two First Ladies, I met a number of young women from universities and high schools around Japan that were also participating in the roundtable. The group ranged from women studying business, to those who were designing office furniture for women. Watching the two First Ladies, both very powerful, successful women, believing and fighting for the cause I believe in and have been fighting for, was not only inspiring but also energizing. They didn’t just passively project ideals and theories, but also backed their answers with personal stories or data.
I loved how Mrs. Obama shared her educational background and demonstrated how her education is what led her to personal success as a mother and a professional success as a woman with a career. She emphasized that we can initiate change anywhere—even from our own backyards, and the issue of gender inequality and encouraging women’s education is not only a foreign issue, but an issue close to home. I was also delighted to hear Mrs. Abe, who has been working with girls’ education in Asia, bring up AUW often in her answers to questions during the discussion.
Although I will be going to university in the fall, and my time with SAGE at ASIJ will end, I am excited to continue working with gender issues and girls’ education all over the world. (Alicia Clow, Grade 12)
You can watch First Lady Michelle Obama’s reflection on the discussion on The White House YouTube Channel or read it on The White House Blog. You can also read details on the event at The Wall Street Journal.