Women’s advocate to speak at NMU

Justin Meyers

The arrival of autumn’s chill at Northern Michigan University will bring out long sleeves, fall colors and a number of guest speakers at this year’s UNITED Conference.

“It’s one of the featured diversity events on our campus,” Center for Student Enrichment Director and Platform Personalities Adviser Rachel Harris said.

Platform Personalities will contribute journalist Gayle Tzemach Lemmon to the lineup at this year’s UNITED. Sophomore computer science major and club president Ben Harris said Lemmon was recommended by Platform’s previous president.

“[UNITED] is a great opportunity for students to be more aware of what’s happening globally and enrich their experiences outside of the classroom,” senior graphic communication and network computing major Elizabeth Klarecki said, who is also an event chair.

Lemmon is a former ABC News reporter turned best-selling author. She is also a Fellow and Deputy Director of the Women and Foreign Policy Program at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Lemmon will speak at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 30  in the Great Lakes Room. Her presentation is titled “Unsung Heroes of the Developing World.”

Lemmon said it was the students at NMU that attracted her to speak at UNITED. “I have friends who have spent a lot of time in the [Upper Peninsula] and some who are from there and they always say that it is both full of intense and curious people and also really lovely,” Lemmon said. “I look forward to seeing it for myself.”

Lemmon advocates for support of women entrepreneurs around the world, especially those in countries affected by military conflict. Lemmon’s best-seller, “The Dressmaker of Khair Khana,” detailed the story of Kamilia Sidiqi.

Sidiqi used her talents as a dressmaker and entrepreneur to ensure the survival of her family as they lived under Taliban rule and war in Afghanistan. Lemmon wrote the book while pursuing her Harvard MBA.

She spent parts of three years in Afghanistan studying the country and its class of female entrepreneurs.

In “The Dressmaker,” Lemmon said, “these women are not victims; they are the glue that holds families together; they are the backbone and the heart of their nation.” Lemmon gave her TED Talk, “Women entrepreneurs, example not exception,” in 2011.

Rachel Harris described it as “very inspirational and motivational.” “She shows that these women are very innovative and they’re very entrepreneurial and they are helping run the country,” Harris said of Lemmon’s TED Talk.

Lemmon said she hopes students will leave her UNITED presentation with a greater respect and appreciation for women entrepreneurs around the world.

“Each of us can make a difference — in ways that are small and much bigger,” Lemmon said. “Whether it comes to buying products from women entrepreneurs in this country or abroad, or giving time and a few dollars to organizations that you think are doing good work supporting people who are creating jobs in their communities.

“It is not just about women, it is about the kind of world you want to actually live in in the next few decades. You vote with your dollar.  And a dollar invested in women pays big dividends.”

Lemmon’s presentation is free of charge for NMU students.

There is a $2 admission fee for members of the general public.