In August Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, made headlines with her 40×40 initiative to empower working women in America. As a celebration for Meghan’s 40th birthday, 40 prominent female figures, including Princess Eugenie, Gabrielle Union, Ciara, Sarah Paulson, Adele, Amanda Gorman, Amanda Nguyen, and Stella McCartney helped kick off the campaign by dedicating 40 minutes to mentoring women re-entering the workforce after the Covid-19 pandemic.
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“Because I’m turning 40, I’m asking 40 friends to donate 40 minutes of their time to help mentor a woman who’s mobilizing into the workforce,” Markle explained in a video with Melissa McCarthy that announced the initiative. “Over 2 million women in the US alone and tens of millions around the world have lost their jobs due to Covid.”
Archewell Foundation, founded by Meghan and her husband, Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, promotes the hashtag #CompassionInAction, a consistent reminder to always act upon the desire to help others. The catch-phrase ties into the Amish Heritage Foundation’s focus on empowering Amish women and girls, whether practicing (i.e., inside the religion) or nonpracticing (i.e., escapees or exiters of the religion).
Nearly all Amish girls and women are entirely dependent upon their fathers or husbands, making the post-escape life difficult to adapt to––and, if married, escaping without one’s husband pretty much unheard of. While Torah Bontrager, the Founder and Executive Director, and the organization provide Amish-focused services that are rare to find, a movement among the general public to raise the visibility on this work is imperative. Even though the Amish Heritage Foundation’s primary focus is on Amish women and girls, the organization continually emphasizes that women of other religious insular groups face similar challenges and needs, and that . . .
. . . religious-driven educational deprivation and female disempowerment are not Amish-only issues in America.
Female mentorship is a blossoming industry where leadership positions filled by women will skyrocket, as a result. (Click here and here for books on this subject.) This chain reaction is a boon for fighting gender inequality, an issue further exacerbated by the insistent denial of Amish women and girls’ constitutional and human rights. Within Amish society, all leadership roles are given to and controlled by men, preventing accurate representation and equal rights from being realized.
While the rest of us are lucky to witness powerful female figures, Amish children do not even conceive of seeing their mothers, sisters, and grandmothers as heroic or empowering in any way. The Amish Church’s excuse to relegate women to second-class status is that women were created specifically to serve men and submit to their husbands. Thus, female leadership and any signs of not ultimately deferring to a male in the course of one’s life are sinful.
The reality is that girls need to understand that their future positions as matriarchs render them leaders by default. Children naturally look up to their mothers as authority figures, and training females to responsibly use this power is more than necessary.
Education is the first logical step towards mentoring and empowering Amish women. We have a juggernaut of a task ahead in reversing Wisconsin v. Yoder (the US Supreme Court case that says that children do not have the right to any education that the religion they are born into forbids), and exiters of insular and fundamentalist religious groups that use Wisconsin v. Yoder to forbid or discourage their children from receiving an adequate education are the most integral in this fight. However, we need the support of all citizens who believe that an adequate education is a federal constitutional right and absolutely necessary for a healthy democracy, not just those who have been directly injured by Yoder.
In my experience, mentorship opportunities helped me delineate what causes and fields are in line with my professional vision. My privilege is an obvious factor in my success, and there should be a collective effort to reach out to underprivileged communities such as the Amish. How would I have turned out without the support of academic and industry figures? I knew my heart gravitated towards the nonprofit and international institution sectors, yet acquiring both hard and soft skills was impossible to accomplish all on my own. I have my college network to thank, first and foremost, for the job opportunities I enjoy presently.
Critics of 40×40 believe that 40 minutes of mentorship do little to impact the trajectory of women in the workforce. Yes, one session just under an hour presses anyone’s capacity to communicate memorable information. Even so, the Duchess of Sussex’s commitment to launching a national movement proves that the rest of us can carry this responsibility and ensure its longevity.
As long as steam never ceases to power this campaign, those 40 minutes conglomerated will be more than enough reason to celebrate.
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