Three Northwest Arkansas teens were among 80 young women from five different countries to participate in a Girls Empowerment Conference this past week in Brazil.
Haley Zega, Camila Restrepo-Botero and Teah Lorraine Flynn were chosen based on their leadership roles in their hometowns.
“I feel like a seed has been planted and I have the awareness now that I can actually make a difference,” said Restrepo, a Fayetteville High School senior.
Flynn, a sophomore at Farmington, said it’s an experience she’ll never forget.
“All the girls had something to bring to the table with us,” Flynn said. “It was just totally a different experience especially being in a different country.”
They met United Nations leaders, ambassadors and motivational speakers, and they took part in daily seminars.
“Learning different cultures, different people, where they came from and what they speak, it was just a great experience,” Flynn said. “I’m really glad I went.”
Zega, a Fayetteville senior, said the attendees spoke different languages: English, Portuguese and Spanish.
“Regardless of language barrier, we all have things that we have in common and that I think was the biggest takeaway for me,” Zega said.
The trip wasn’t all business. The teens also got to do some sightseeing.
“We went up to the Christ the Redeemer and, of course, I had to take a picture like this (with her arms extended) so I have that one, that’s fun,” Restrepo said. “It’s a good memory.”
Zega said they enjoyed the country’s natural beauty.
“They were probably the cleanest beaches that I’ve ever seen,” Zega said. “It was a perfect day to spend at the water.”
All three return home full of energy now more ready than ever to take on any challenge that comes their way.
“We have the same rights and the same powers as anybody else does, and we have the power to change the world,” Flynn said.
Restrepo said, “First of all I have to start in Fayetteville, that’s something that we learned. We learned that if you want to make a change you have to start small, you have to start in your town.”
Zega said, “By ourselves we are really powerful, but when we all put our mind to something and we all work together, we are unstoppable.”
The organization Partners of America selected 23 women from the U.S. to participate. The topics in the seminar included politics, women’s rights and violence against women.