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This past week I joined two lectures by women who are trying to make a difference in the world for those who don’t have a voice. They both spoke up for the empowerment of women. One spoke of people she has met and interacted with. Another spoke of her own experiences, her own life.

On Wednesday, the 11 of May, Scheryl WuDunn spoke at the University of Oregon in the EMU Ballroom. WuDunn, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, senior banker and co-author of “Half the Sky,” brought not just issues but solutions that we can work on to bring about change.

“Women and girls aren’t the problem,” says WuDunn. “They are the solution.”

The solutions, WuDunn says, lie in education of women and economic opportunity. The education doesn’t help wholly if women still are unable to interact on an economic level. She gave one example of a woman, Saima, who was given a $65 microloan. Saima started an embroidery business, hired 30 women, and also hired her husband for transportation and distribution help. This one woman, with the help of $65, made a huge difference in her small community.

A young girl, a Chinese girl, WuDunn explains, was able to go to school with the helpful donations of many New York Times readers. She was among many other girls in her same village. The girl ended up going to college and graduating, WuDunn says. She got a job and sent money back to her parents. Her parents were able to turn their hut into a home with running water. Many of the other girls who also were able to go to school, also sent money back. Much of the village now has running water. All this has happened, WuDunn says, because the girls were given a chance at education and economic opportunity.

“Women and girls aren’t the problem,” says WuDunn. “They are the solution.”

WuDunn made it clear that she knows not every micro lent dollar, and every attempt is going to make as much difference. But the more we try, the more we figure out the best way to help these women and girls claim their places in the world. With the help of both women and men, educated and given economic opportunities, we can change the world, WuDunn says.

On Thursday, the 12 of May, Jessica Richardson, a victim of sexual abuse and human trafficking, spoke at the University of Oregon in Columbia 150. Richardson, 32-year-old mother of five, seems like your average businesswoman.

“Well I have been a slave. But today, I am free,” says Richardson.

I was invited to join the University of Oregon’s Slavery Still Exists group to have dinner with Richardson before she spoke. Hearing her talk and joke at dinner, I didn’t realize at first that she was the speaker for the night. It wasn’t until the end of dinner when they started talking about speech strategies that I realized it was Richardson who was speak about her experiences of being sexually trafficked.

At the young age of 4, Richardson was sexually abused for two years before she and her parents moved to another city. It wasn’t till middle school and people started talking about sex, that she realized she already intimately knew about it.

“I was dirty. I was tainted. I was used. [Sex] was all I was good for,” says Richardson as she remembers how she felt when she realized her two years of sexual abuse was rape.  In a downward spiral after the death of her father, her beloved great uncle and her male cat, Richardson eventually found herself graduated from Job Core and alone on the streets of Portland, Ore. She worked at a restaurant. A man, a regular customer, started paying her compliments, making her feel worthy. She gravitated to him.

“Well I have been a slave. But today, I am free,” says Richardson.

He told her, “If you’re already having sex, why wouldn’t you want to get paid for it?” That was when she was blindly guided into the life of a “hoe.” She was forced to have sex with as many men as possible a day. Richardson had to make at least $1000 for her pimp, or she had to watch while her pimp beat another person in front of her—as a blond, she was too valuable to beat. She was enslaved in this lifestyle until she was 18, when she finally realized she needed to run away. She planned it out, she paid her prices and with the help of a woman who ran an escort service, she got away.

It wasn’t until she received a positive pregnancy test that she decided to completely turn around her life. She told herself that the child inside her deserved better. She eventually met her husband. She has had four children with him—the most recent five months ago. Things haven’t been easy. She lost her mother—“my best friend, my business partner,” Richardson says—to leukemia 13 days after finding out she had it. Richardson sees her death as a blessing because now her mother is free.

An average lifespan for a prostitute is 7 years, says Richardson. Around 600,000 to 800,000 victims are trafficked each year. Estimates of more than 300,000 American children are sex trafficked in the U.S., according to FBI studies.

“This is going to be a battle. This is going to be a huge fight,” Richardson states. “But we have to fight. Because remember, these are our families, these are our children, our sisters, our brothers.”

“Here’s the cause. Join the movement. Feel happier. And save the world,” WuDunn says.