Updated: Jun 11
Voices of Positive Change: “You can’t be what you can’t see” – Marian Wright Edelman
Zahara's Dream Interview with Jessica Roland, Women's Rights Activist, USA
1. What was your first career dream? (Where did Jessica girl-child see Jessica adult-woman?)
A lawyer. I was always passionate about standing up for those who couldn’t defend themselves. I also loved to win an argument!
2. What first inspired you to become an advocate for women’s rights?
My first passion area that I pursued in college was learning how to prevent genocide and mass atrocities. I had visited the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum before going to college and became intrigued at how such horrible events could occur. In studying this and learning about international justice mechanisms and transitional justice, I read accounts of how women were specifically targeted and used in a way that was very different from the men. I realized that there wasn’t a lot of work specifically examining the gendered impact of these crimes, especially in preventative efforts. I decided then that I wanted to help address this enormous gap and highlight the way women and girls are leaders in conflict prevention efforts.
3. What does Empowerment mean to you?
Empowerment is having the necessary tools and support to act on issues that are important to the individual and their larger community.
4. How do you manage disrupters/toxicity to your journey?
In the words of Maya Angelou, “You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them”. There will constantly be people who tell you that you aren’t good enough, smart enough, or experienced enough. Instead of accepting that as true, I re-strategize and ask myself, ‘what is it you are really trying to achieve?’ And then I push back even harder towards my goal.
5. How do you start your day to achieve the objectives you have set for yourself?
I create my “to-do” list! I love checking things off throughout the day. It is very rewarding.
6. How do you turn fear into opportunity?
I always think of President Theodore Roosevelt’s quote, “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, or difficulty.” And I constantly remind myself that if you are comfortable, you aren’t growing.
7. What is the best career advice you were given?
Nothing is a straight path. Learning about what you don’t like is just as important as learning about what you do like.
8. What is your daily motto?
Has to be another amazing quote from Maya Angelou! “If you’re always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.”
9. Name a woman who inspires you. Why?
My mother. She has persevered through so much personal trauma and even through it all, she taught me that you never give up and you always finish what you started.
10. What would your younger self tell you if she were to meet you now?
You will continue to be tested by unanticipated challenges that you cannot control, but you are still the same fierce, strong, and determined girl you always were.