Women Who Inspire Us: The Power of Feminine Energy

Filed Under: EARTH Stories
Date: March 18th, 2024

On March 5th, we gathered as a community to celebrate Women Who Inspire, an annual event focused on fostering gender equity and on inspiring students, staff, graduates, and faculty through women’s stories. These events are made possible by the Dr. Beatrice E. Lewis Fund for Women, established by Ivor and Barbara Freeman.

This year, we had the opportunity to listen to the stories of two Costa Rican women who are leaders in their field. They enriched us through the sharing of their unique life experiences and philosophies on life. We were honored to have in the audience more than 30 women farmers from EARTH Futures’ Nourishing the Future IV project, who joined us for the event.

A Pioneering Woman

“I want to say what I think, what I feel.

In the depths of my being as a woman

I want to say what many of my grandmothers were silent about

Or those who were silenced for wanting freedom.”

Gabriela Cruz (Class of 2025, Nicaragua) sang these powerful lyrics as Esander JACQUES (Class of 2027, Haiti) accompanied her on guitar, opening the event held at the Emory Cocke Auditorium and setting the tone for the first speaker, Vicki Ross.

Vicki Ross is a woman who illuminates a space with her presence, the strength of her voice, and the drive she has demonstrated in her journey. In February 2022, after a historic and unanimous vote by the presidents of Costa Rican football clubs, she was elected president of UNAFUT (the Spanish acronym stands for Union of First Division Football Clubs). By doing this she became the first woman in the world to lead a men’s soccer league. This marks a historic milestone at a global level and paves the way for other women to follow in her footsteps. 

With strength but also humility, Vicki told us her story. She talked about the women in her family who significantly contributed to medicine, culture, politics, and gender equity in Costa Rica. “I have the privilege of coming from a family full of strong women…I had the advantage of having a constant example of women who grew up thinking there were no barriers to their development, to study, or to raise their voices and join causes that filled their hearts.”

For Vicki, having societal role models is essential to achieving goals – women who show other women that nothing is impossible. If a girl dreams of being an astronaut or president of her country, she sees she can achieve it through passion, effort, love, and dedication.

In addition to being a pioneer in the sports world, Vicki served as president of the Anna Ross Foundation for over 10 years. The NGO focuses on prevention, early detection, and comprehensive support for cancer patients. Trained as a journalist, she has worked for more than 27 years in media. She is a fellow of the tenth graduating class of the Central American Leadership Initiative, a member of the Aspen Global Leadership Network, and a former candidate for the Vice Presidency of Costa Rica for the National Liberation Party.

She is, without a doubt, an example for women in our community to follow. Thank you, Vicki, for continuing the legacy of the strong women in your family and inspiring us with your story!

An Advocate for Sustainable Food Systems

María José Figueres (Class of 2009, Costa Rica) is co-founder and president of Blanco y Negro, a women-owned sustainable and organic farm that grows and markets sustainable agricultural products while providing tourism, education, and rural development services. Blanco y Negro is partnering with local organizations, academic institutions, and government agencies to implement initiatives that benefit the environment, the economy, and society to develop the Turrialba region of Costa Rica into an exemplary sustainable food system.

In telling us the story of Blanco y Negro, María José shared how vital feminine energy is in creating sustainable food systems on a global level. With charisma and poetic language, she took us on a journey into our roots to honor the women who are part of each person’s personal history, and to thank these women for all they have done with their hands to feed the world.

“There is no more absolute, certain, and irrefutable truth than the sustainability of our food systems depends on humanity. That is the responsibility that rests in our hands. All of us who are here today, in one way or another, are united and intertwined by that purpose and work for it from many different angles: from management, the fields, food, industry, added value, marketing and communication, and breaking paradigms. We are united for the same purpose. Interestingly, following the definition, when inspiration happens we say that ‘a little light comes on,’ and that little light is creativity. Creativity leads to ideas through the objective observation of knowledge, which we are all developing here to generate solutions.”

María José explained how, years later, her Graduation Project (GP) became what is now Blanco y Negro, her life project. We thank “Majo” for returning to EARTH, her home, and for sharing her inspiring ideas to build a more sustainable world.

Thanks to the Women’s Circle initiative, Dr. Beatrice’s family, the students who entertained us with their musical talent, and to all the people who made this fantastic event possible.