When I see people in my community hurting, I am also hurting. Giving back to my community is not just an option, it is necessary.
Ghenet, 23, is a member of the Young Women of Color Leadership Council.
I became involved in activism in the youth sexual health and rights movement by seeking out and volunteering with organizations that aim to advocate for people whose voices are not often heard. The key to any type of change is to educate and raise awareness, which is what I aim to do in everything I am involved with, whether it is being an advocate for victims of sexual assault and violence or for youth. My motivation stems from the fact that while doing work with youth, I realized that, in many situations, they were misinformed or unaware of many issues regarding sexual health. I noticed this especially in the minority communities that I work with. Although initially I was not working with these youth to educate them about sexual health and rights, it is my responsibility to become an advocate and educate them because I have been exposed to their ignorance on this topic.
I want the young people of my generation and future generations to strive to be leaders. Leadership can be intimidating at times, and one may not feel “ready” to accept the roles and responsibilities that come with leadership, but if we continue to look at others to take on the role we are “scared” of, how will our voices be heard? How will we see the change we desire? Furthermore, I want the young people of my generation and future generations to understand the importance of education. Every day I learn something new and I teach someone something. Whether it is teaching someone about my heritage, Eritrean, or teaching someone about sexually transmitted diseases, I am eliminating some form of ignorance.
Most importantly, I want the people of my generation and future generations to come to remember to always give back. My parents came to America as refugees of war in 1983 in order to start their family in a country that can provide their children with some of the opportunities they were never afforded. One thing that never faded from my parents was the pride they had for their country and this pride they have has transcended into me. My parents raised me on the values and traditions of Eritrean culture, and my morals, values and beliefs can be accredited to this upbringing. The idea that everyone is family and treating your neighbor as you would your sister or brother is something that is very common in the Eritrean culture, and I believe this is very true. When I see people in my community hurting, I am also hurting. Giving back to my community is not an option, it is necessary.