The 2017 Women in the World Summit was a powerful three-day celebration of the female voice in the midst of a tumultuous political and cultural climate. The annual conference was started by Tina Brown in 2010 and consists of speakers, panels, and performances centered around the theme of building a better world for women and girls. One highlight of the 2017 conference held last week in NYC was a long interview with Hillary Clinton, her first such appearance since the election. Other highlighted speakers of note were Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Hafsat Abiola-Costello, and Tamika D. Mallory.
Acclaimed Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was part of a panel discussion with Katie Couric and Cecile Richards on the topic of feminism. It’s certainly what Adichie is most known for, from her 2012 TEDx talk “We Should All Be Feminists” and her book Dear Ijeawele. Adichie spoke passionately about the importance of girls rejecting the idea of likeability and how the need to be liked is hurting women. She also spoke about the important role men have in the feminist movement and the dangers of what she called “feminism lite” or “the idea of conditional female equality.”
Nigerian civil rights activist Hafsat Abiola-Costello shared the tragic story of her parents. While Abiola-Costello was studying at Harvard University, her father became the first democratically elected president of Nigeria after running on a platform of hope. Before he could govern, a military coup saw him thrown into jail. Abiola-Costello’s mother took up her husband’s cause fighting for justice and was assassinated for it. Her mother’s murder and her father’s subsequent death in jail left Abiola-Costello with a fiery commitment to activism. By organizing protests in both Nigeria and America, founding a nonprofit that empowers women, and serving as a cabinet member in Ogun State, Abiola-Costello is making sure that her parents’ deaths “will never be in vain.” With her personal experiences in seeing the tragedy of the silencing of women’s voices, she also spoke of how the rest of the world saw the silencing of women’s voices during the 2016 US election. “The whole world needs America to rise to the challenge,” she said, and this time they failed to do so. Abiola-Costello spoke movingly with raw emotion still evident. but her commitment to activism was filled with hope—a fitting tribute to her parents.
Tamika D. Mallory, a national co-chair for the Women’s March on Washington, spoke about how women can harness their power to change the world. The closing panel Mallory was a part of spoke on the power of activism through a personal lens. An important theme was “keeping women of color and the marginalized inside the movement.” Mallory welcomed to the movement those in positions of privilege who are feeling anxiety for the first time under Trump but urged them not to leave the movement when things get better for them personally.