Hill Day: Taking our seat at the table

October 20, 2017

This was written by Johnnie, a member of the Youth Advisory Board

Women and girls need to have a seat at the table.

On Wednesday, September 13, Malika, a fellow Plan International USA Youth Advisory Board member, and I took our seats at the Hart and Russell Senate Office Buildings. When the opportunity to partake in Hill Day arose, I had no idea what to expect, but I knew that it would be a day to connect my passion for Plan’s work with my interest in government. The day ended up exceeding my expectations and proved to be an extremely educational experience.

We met with staffers from the offices of Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland and Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, and the last meeting of the day was with a staffer from Delaware Sen. Christopher Coons’ office. In the meetings, our team members discussed the Foreign Aid Budget and thanked the senators for prioritizing foreign assistance, since the proposed budget cut of 44% is now down to 3%. We also praised other initiatives and issues of importance for our organizations, such as keeping the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) an independent agency and not merging with the Department of State. Being able to be in the room while these conversations took place and having the opportunity to provide my input was insightful and empowering.

The staffers were very receptive to Malika and I, which was a pleasant surprise given that we had no clue how they’d feel about having us there. It was nice to be able to learn what the senators and their teams were working on, in addition to learning more about the priorities of Plan and other organizations within the InterAction coalition.

Being a part of those meetings allowed me to experience political activism for causes that I’m passionate about in a different, more direct way. Before Hill Day, I was vaguely familiar with advocacy, but being able to actually participate has impacted my view of it drastically. Malika and I had a seat at the table and felt like valued members of a team that is working to ensure that the voices of women and girls are listened to around the world.