#MyStory: How Social Sharing Can Empower Women All Around the World
We take to Instagram to share everything from our ice cream addictions to our cats, but the social media platform today launched a campaign that will highlight 28 women using the service to share empowering stories — stories that shatter female stereotypes and spread positive news. The Instagram initiative, dubbed #MyStory, includes a live Los Angeles-based photography exhibit and a call to its users to share their own inspiring stories with the campaign's hashtag.
Baby Kate, my namesake, is in pre-school now. She grew up around international staff because her mom Esther worked at our house. She's learned a bunch of things including how to use an iPhone, and how to get what she wants with that cute smile. I try to show the world Liberia isnt Mars, is a place filled with children like #babyKate
Each woman featured in the initiative has an incredibly interesting tale to tell, but we caught up with 33-year-old Katie Meyler, Time Person of the Year and founder of More Than Me — an academy for girls living in the slums of Monrovia, Liberia, and an organization fighting to reimagine the country's education system after a devastating Ebola outbreak.
The New Jersey native admits she grew up in what American society might call poverty. But her view of what constitutes being poor changed as Meyler traveled on mission trips and later with an international development agency to Bolivia and Liberia, realizing, "I was one of the richest people in the world."
In Liberia, Meyler met a 10-year-old girl — already giving oral sex to men in exchange for clean drinking water — who asked Meyler to help her go to school. "I realized that no matter how hard things were in my life growing up, I would never have to sell myself for clean drinking water," Meyler told Glamour. And at just 27 years old, she set out to establish More Than Me.
By 2009, Meyler — with the help of several other women, including the first female president in Africa, Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf — had established the academy as an after-school program for girls in need, and later converted it into the country's first tuition-free girls school.
When Ebola ravished the country last year, More Than Me was forced to close alongside all of the nation's other schools. But Meyler and her supporters didn't stop working. Instead, she says, "we fought with everything we are made of." They formed the Ebola-Free West Point Coalition, and transformed the academy's building "into a place for children who had been abandoned or orphaned by Ebola," Meyler says, "And needed to wait out their 21-day quarantine in a safe place."
Meyler is also fighting to rebuild Liberia's education system, working with the minister of education to reimagine what school can look like and "foster stability in Liberia, so that every child has a fighting chance to be in charge of their dreams and to create their own path," Meyler says.
That includes making sure another Ebola outbreak never happens again, and so, Meyler's #MyStory focuses on "what happened before Ebola, what's happening now, and what will continue to happen with Liberia's education system — what allowed Ebola to be so devastating — if nothing is done," she says. "I hope #MyStory will educate people on the reality of what is really happening in Liberia, and that people will want to get involved. I want people to ask deeper questions about why we're here, and get closer to the roots of why things are the way they are. This problem is solvable, but we can't do it alone."
Meyler is also eager to help the other campaign participants shatter tired female stereotypes — stereotypes that say, "women are overly-emotional, we are the weaker sex, we're not as strong as men, that women should be the primary caregiver for their children, and it's a woman's job to do charity," Meyler ticks off. "We can shatter these by using platforms like #MyStory to amplify the day-to-day journey of women, and show the world the reality of all of the amazing, incredible things that women do."
The full list of featured participants can be seen on The Huffington Post.
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Photo Credit: AntonioGuillem via Getty Images