The White House called student leaders to the White House to talk about the impact of the Dobbs decision and reproductive rights on university campuses. Christian Zidouemba and Anya Mansur joined about 70 student leaders from across the country. GW Today asked the two to share their experience in their own words.
Anya Mansur, a sophomore studying political science and a member of Advocates for Youth:
In October, I had the honor of convening with campus leaders and advocates across the country to join in a roundtable discussion with Vice President Kamala Harris. We discussed how the Dobbs decision, which overturned the constitutional right to an abortion, impacted a student’s ability to access safe abortion procedures and contraceptives and its impact on college campuses.
I attended on behalf of Advocates for Youth (AFY), an organization that is dedicated to promoting the advocacy of young people. At AFY, I serve as a member of the Muslim Youth Leadership Council, where Muslim-identifying people, between the ages of 17-24, advocate nationally and in their local communities for LGBTQ+ rights, sexual and reproductive health and immigrant rights for Muslims everywhere.
At this White House event, the Biden administration gathered 75 youth advocates from college campuses across the United States. This opportunity to assemble with other youth activists broadened my understanding of the real-life repercussions of this Supreme Court decision. We heard testimonies of students in Texas, where abortion access is dangerously restricted, to students who traveled from California, whose focus was comprehensive sexual and reproductive services across colleges. As a resident of Northern Virginia and a student in Washington, D.C., I am privileged to pursue higher education in an environment that protects the right to abortion services and comprehensive sexual education. At the conference, I spoke about the fundamental issues rooted in Title IX, a law that prohibits sex-based discrimination and is often enacted to protect survivors of sexual assault. All universities have Title IX offices to support student survivors.
However, the law which enacted Title IX has fundamental issues-including the pressure it enacts on survivors to report and involve law enforcement. Advocating for reproductive education and survival rights at the White House was an empowering experience. The conference gave me hope for a future of comprehensive reproductive and sexual education, along with support for survivors on college campuses.
Christian Zidouemba, Student Association president and a graduate student in the School of Business:
My experience at the White House was immensely fulfilling. As a public policy student, I have dreamed of entering our nation's most venerable government building. However, it was never clear to me that a moment of this magnitude would ever be realized. This is mainly due to the unrelenting self-doubting voice that creeps up every time I envision myself attaining my most audacious goals. It is ceaselessly tormenting to continuously experience crippling self-doubt despite my past achievements.
This self-doubt did not develop in a vacuum.
On the contrary, it developed over many years of facing seemingly insurmountable obstacles: being raised in a severely impoverished financial setting; learning a new language; moving to a foreign country; campaigning three times in a row for the student body presidency only to face an illegitimate coup in the first few weeks of my presidency.
All these obstacles and many others have filled me with immense self-doubt that I might not be sufficiently capable of achieving my goals. It is only because of surreal moments such as being present at the White House that keep me from giving in to this unrelenting self-doubt.
As I exchanged ideas with Vice-President Kamala Harris about the controversial and complex issue of women's reproductive rights, it became increasingly clear to me that everything I have dreamed and will dream about in the future is feasible. This does not only include personal goals but goals that I have in regard to helping kids who share the same upbringing. The George Washington University made it possible for me to be at the White House, giving me the exhilarating feeling of reassurance that everything in life is possible. So, now my goal is to strive to make it possible for every kid in Burkina Faso to feel that same feeling of reassurance I had when I stepped into the White House.