When I was a young girl in Missouri I didn’t have much, but I had dreams. Dreams of changing the world to be a better place and helping people live better lives. I wanted to make a significant impact in the world — but they were just dreams.
To achieve these aspirations I needed tools, such as a strong education. Going to college was not in my parents’ minds or possibilities, and if I wanted to go to college, I would have to figure out how to do so on my own.
One day, when I was 15 years old, I read about Title IX, a portion of the U.S. Education Amendments of 1972, which would later be known as the Patsy Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act.
Patsy Mink was one of the principal authors of Title IX, which states: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance."
Before this legislation passed, women didn’t have equal opportunities under the law in academics; women were constantly denied access to medical, law and other graduate schools; and women athletes were not allowed to participate in sports. Today’s advancement of women in academic disciplines and in sports is, in many ways, thanks to Title IX legislation.
I am living proof of the impact that Patsy Mink and her group of advocates had on thousands of women in the country. Title IX let me to get to where I am in my career by first allowing me to attend William Woods University on an athletic scholarship, which became the root of what helped me achieve my dreams to contribute to the betterment of human lives.
I have spent 34 years working in the trade industry. I have helped enable trade around the world. However, what does this have to do with improving people’s lives? Trade might not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about making an impact. People might imagine more tangible solutions such as a great invention, wiping out hunger or ending war. But trade, indeed, is a way to achieve monumental change.
I recently had the opportunity to do a TED Talk. My hypothesis was that if trade had been embraced and developed in Nigeria, the terrible kidnapping of 276 young schoolgirls by Boko Haram in 2014 would have not happened. I asked the audience then, what if:
▪ All people in Nigeria had access to formal employment?
▪ Villages in Nigeria were more integrated into the global economy?
▪ Families could break the cycle of poverty through education and jobs?
What if free trade had been in place for the past two decades in Nigeria? Would this have ever happened? I don’t think so.
Trade is our most effective weapon against poverty and injustice. Trade is the gun that can combat human trafficking. Trade provides the medicine for the sick. Trade provides the roof so many people around the world need for shelter. Trade is the answer to giving back dignity to millions of underprivileged people. Trade is our strongest humanitarian weapon. Trade does impact people’s lives in the most positive way!
And what is the role of women? For some of us, it’s directly enabling trade; for others, it is enabling commerce through education, helping more women and men join the workforce and becoming part of the virtuous circle of trade. For others, it’s working for global companies or for a small one-person enterprise that affects the family and the local community.
India’s former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru once said: “To awaken the people, it is the woman who must be awakened. Once she is on the move, the family moves, the village moves, the nation moves.” These are the words that capture the importance of women in the advancement of family, economy and ultimately, countries.
Romaine Seguin is president of UPS International, Inc., Americas Region.