Americans for UNFPA's Global Approach to Women's Activism

Odunola Ojewumi, a college student who won UNFPA's Student Award, journeys to Central America to learn about women's issues.

Angeline Martyn is Director of Communications & Marketing at Americans for UNFPA. She manages the International Award program that brings women like Marta Julia Ruiz into our lives. Through public education, advocacy, and fundraising, Americans for UNFPA increases U.S. engagement in women's health globally. Angeline traveled with Ola Ojewumi to Guatemala and reflects on her experience.

Since 2006, I've traveled to Mongolia (opens in new tab)Madagascar (opens in new tab)Cambodia (opens in new tab), and now Guatemala (opens in new tab) to meet and produce videos about the Americans for UNFPA International Honorees for the Health and Dignity of Women. And since the inception of our Student Award program in 2007, I've worked closely with Marie Claire to expand the global footprint of our student ambassadors through live blogs on MarieClaire.com.

This year, however, is the first time I've traveled with a Student Award Winner (opens in new tab), and it has been refreshing to watch Ola's discovery process (opens in new tab) on her first trip outside the United States. As reflected in Ola's Marie Claire blogs, she is humbled by the achievements of those around her and humbled too about her own successes. Together we've explored Guatemala and gotten to know Marta Julia Ruiz, Mayan girls (opens in new tab), and the UNFPA in-country program staff.

In Ola's blogs, she conveyed the powerful sentiment of the shared struggle and triumphs of women in Guatemala and women globally. She brought attention to the need for raising global awareness about the impact of raising the status of women in their community. After hearing the stories of Marta Julia (opens in new tab) and Elvia (opens in new tab), she reflected back on the similar experiences faced by her own mother and of adolescent girls in her home state of Maryland. A common theme prevailed — that the fate of future generations is dependent on women leading by example: giving back to their communities and forging new paths. As Student Ambassador for Americans for UNFPA, Ola has already joined this path and made an impact on the lives of many through her words, activism, and leadership.

Each year at Americans for UNFPA, we receive so many powerful, action-oriented applications for both the International and Student awards. Through Ola's blogs, our short video, and speaking events in New York City and Washington D.C. in October 2010 (opens in new tab), we do all that we can to bring success stories from the field into the hands of more and more Americans.

We also offer leadership delegations (opens in new tab) for interested individuals to travel with us to visit UNFPA programs in countries ranging from Guatemala and Cambodia to India and Ethiopia. In fact, Americans for UNFPA will host a trip to Guatemala (opens in new tab) in 2011, if you want to see the programs you've read about first-hand.

Marta Julia is not alone in her accomplishments. In 155 countries, UNFPA (opens in new tab) works with amazing advocates like Marta Julia to implement programs to ensure the health and dignity of women around the globe. On October 7 (opens in new tab) she will share the stage with Feeza Shraim, a midwife from the Gaza Strip, as they both receive their Awards, named this year in honor of an outstanding American, and role model to many, Phyllis Oakley. They will be joined by American honorees, who are making equally powerful strides in their own lives. And together their examples tell the story of our common humanity and interconnected lives. They show us how one woman, every woman, can make a difference in her community and on the world around her.

At Americans for UNFPA, it is this message that we hope resonates — that you too can make a difference for women everywhere.

And with that, I'm pleased to announce the launch of the 2011 Americans for UNFPA student award program. To download the application (opens in new tab) and learn more, visit Americans for UNFPA (opens in new tab). The deadline is December 10, 2010, at noon.

Get involved by joining our email list (opens in new tab), or on Facebook or Twitter.

Read all of Ola's blog posts:
Seeking Inspiration from Maryland to Guatemala City (opens in new tab)

Exhausted in Antigua, the Land of Eternal Spring (opens in new tab)

Meeting the Guatemalan Girls of Abriendo Oportunidades (opens in new tab)

Discovering Women's "Safe Space" in Guatemala (opens in new tab)

One Woman Opens Doors for Generation of Girls (opens in new tab)

Putting an End to Global Violence Against Women (opens in new tab)

The Spirit of Activism Starts with an Education (opens in new tab)