Change Begins Within Message of Inaugural MUSE Women’s Conference in Bend

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Muse: 1) a source of inspiration and creativity 2) to think reflectively, meditate, wonder, marvel.

March 1 marked the inception of the inaugural MUSE Women’s Conference in Bend. Inside the Oxford Hotel, amidst the bustle of ArtWalk devotees and diners, champagne flowed freely as registration began for the over 300 women attending the inspiration-packed weekend event. Girls, women and a smattering of men thronged the registration room, creating an electric buzz of excitement and expectancy. So many powerful and talented girls and womenwere present, coming together to meet, tell their stories and absorb it all in an atmosphere of friendship.

The MUSE conference was the brainchild of Amanda Stuermer, founder of Shine Global, a non-profit that supports and inspires women and girls to realize their full potential as catalysts for personal, community and global change.

For the past five years Shine Global has been offering in-school programs, after- school programs and summer camps for teens, along with classes, workshops, retreats and service travel for women. Tools such as yoga, art, music and creative writing are used to empower teens and women to find their voices. Studies show that a girl’s self-esteem peaks at nine years old. By the age of ten, self-consciousness replaces self-esteem.

“This loss of self-esteem has become endemic in our society”, says Stuermer. The key to changing this dilemma is to create forums for communication and connection with the girls.

Saturday’s MUSE events included a host of musical artists, journalists, a panel of outspoken girls and internationally- acclaimed speakers all sharing their passion and dreams, advocating for girls and women around the world. The themes of Wisdom, Passion, Truth, Forgiveness, Inspiration and Transformation served as the framework for the events.

Keynote speaker, humanitarian Dr. Tererai Trent, held the audience of 300 captive, while retelling the compelling story of her struggles as a young girl growing up in rural Zimbabwee. Impoverished, abused and oppressed, her story typified the fate of girls and women in Sub-Saharan Africa subject to the unbreakable cycle of oppression that existed for centuries.

Dr. Trent’s story is one of courage and tenacity, as she defied her culture’s roles and fought for her rights to be educated and autonomous. 20 years later, in 2011, Dr. Trent earned her PhD and appeared on Oprah Winfrey. Oprah donated $1.5 million to Dr. Trent’s Tinogona (It is achievable!) Foundation to repair and build schools and improve living conditions in Zimbabwee. The project is being used to build nine schools, train 24 teaches and provide education for over 4,000 children.

Dr Trent says that the core of our humanity is grounded in our ability to give back and help transform others. She says, “We must understand that we are not just individuals, but a web of connections. We must use our power to be role models, to advocate, to connect with, and to help others. It is up to each of us to champion for human rights and equality.”

Amanda Stuermer’s Shine Global does just that.

To learn more: www.Shine-Global.org.

Lives on the Line photography and story-telling by 50 local, female artists is on display currently at Hot Box Betty in downtown Bend.

Cathy Pollock AmSAT Certified Teacher of the Alexander Technique can be reached at cathyepollock@gmail.com.

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