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NNEDV Advocates for Survivors at the 2018 United State of Women Summit

May 17, 2018

The National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) joined the United State of Women (USOW) as a community partner for the USOW Summit hosted May 5-6, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. As a national voice for survivors and their advocates, NNEDV gathered with nearly 5,000 change-makers from across the country to work on breaking barriers that women face every day. Attendees left the Summit armed with renewed passion and motivation in this movement, and had the opportunity to teach, learn, inspire, and equip one another with the necessary tools to make a difference.

On May 5, the USOW Summit included inspiring plenaries, issue area breakout sessions, and opportunities to connect with leading change-makers, organizations, and women-owned businesses. On May 6, attendees dispersed throughout Los Angeles to attend and contribute to skills-based trainings or community teach-ins hosted by organizations making progress on gender equity.

Actor and Activist Yara Shahidi shares words of wisdom during the USOW Summit opening plenary.

What Does a More United State of Women Look Like?

The USOW Summit placed intention on the diverse intersectional issues that play a role in women’s lives, and therefore need to be addressed in the movement for equality. Individuals and organizations working on violence against women, racial justice, disability rights, criminal justice reform, gun violence prevention, LGBTQ equality, reproductive justice, and more, made clear that until all of us are safe, none of us are safe. Without working together to dismantle structures that strategically and actively oppress women, people of color, differently abled individuals, and LGBTQ folks, there will be no equality. Actor and Activist Yara Shahidi made it clear that we can make this change, saying, “Instead of inheriting a broken system, we have the power to change it.”

“We will never have peace in this world until feminists take power.” 
-Dolores Huerta, USOW Summit Opening Plenary

The opening ceremony, titled “What Does a More United State of Women Look Like?,” kicked off the weekend with influential speakers who set a motivational and empowering tone of camaraderie. Speakers included Valerie Jarrett (Former Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama), Dolores Huerta (Dolores Huerta Foundation), Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and First Lady Amy Wakeland, Shannon Watts (Moms Demand Action), youth activists (including Parkland students), former U.S. Women’s Gymnastics team members, and other activists and artists. Additional insight came from conversations between #BlackLivesMatter Co-Founder Patrisse Cullors and Actor and Activist Jane Fonda.

Actor and Activist Jane Fonda joins #BlackLivesMatter Co-Founder Patrisse Cullors to discuss the broken systems that continue to oppress women, specifically women of color.

Journalist and Editor Elaine Welteroth moderated a conversation between U.S. Senator Kamala Harris, Actor and Activist Yara Shahidi, and Campaign Zero Co-founder Brittany Packnett. Senator Harris beautifully wrapped up the opening ceremony saying, “Women do so much truth telling with courage, and therefore… power.”

“Dig deep and find what fights you are willing to fight…”
-Michelle Obama, USOW Summit Closing Plenary

The USOW Summit closing plenary included a rock-star line-up of women: Alicia Garza (National Domestic Workers Alliance, #BlackLivesMatter, and Black Futures Lab), Lillibeth Navarro (Communities Actively Living Independent & Free), Connie Britton (Actor and Activist), Tarana Burke (Me Too Founder), Marley Dias (#1000BlackGirlBooks), Marsai Martin (Actor and Activist), and more. Actor and Activist Tracee Ellis Ross concluded the day by interviewing Former First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama. Obama shared how her family encouraged her to speak her mind, and the importance of this for young girls: “I’m open with my girls and help them use their voice.”

Actor and Activist Tracee Ellis Ross interviews Former First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama during the USOW Summit closing plenary.

Advocating With and For Survivors at the USOW Summit

Demanding equality is an integral part of ending domestic violence. NNEDV President and CEO Kim Gandy has said, “One of the root causes of domestic violence is inequality, so every step towards an equal and just world is a step towards ending domestic violence.” At the USOW Summit, NNEDV joined national partners advocating for survivors, including The Allstate Foundation Purple Purse, to strengthen the movement to end gender-based violence.

The resilience, eloquence, insight, and strength that survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault brought to the USOW Summit cannot be understated. Aly Raisman, two-time Olympian gymnast and survivor of sexual abuse, validated this by sharing, “Every single person in this room has a voice and deserves to be heard.”

Tarana Burke, Me Too Founder, shares the importance of the #MeToo moment amidst the movement to end gender-based violence.

Tarana Burke, Me Too founder, explained that the #MeToo hashtag is a powerful moment amidst an ongoing movement to end gender-based violence, saying, “Me Too – two magical words and healing words, but the [anti domestic violence and sexual assault] work… has been happening for decades.” Burke also shared her message to survivors in the closing plenary stating, “There are a lot of you who are survivors in this room. My message to you is this: Be gentle with yourself. Take care of yourself.”

Taking Action Together

The fight for equality is a collective movement; no one is alone. There will be a world for future generations where peace and safety are the norm. It is possible to break barriers. We can harness power to ensure that women not only survive, but have the opportunity to thrive. Together with the United State of Women and advocates and activists across the country, this USOW Summit set an ambitious goal to spur one million actions in 2018. We can work toward equality through ongoing effort, commitment, and partnership. We strive for a future where survivors are seen, heard, believed, and empowered, and, ultimately, where violence no longer exists.

Taking action looks differently for everyone, but one thing is certain – YOU can join us in making change. As Michelle Obama shared at the USOW Summit, “Change starts close to home.” Take action today:

Still curious? For more about the USOW Summit, take a look through our #USOW2018 Twitter Moment.