Inspiring women share life stories during ‘Women in Conversation’

Shared from The STAR

Three women who were incredible speakers with three very different stories took to the stage for “Women in Conversation” at the Green Music Center for the third year, attracting people from all over California.

The first speaker was none other than our very own President of Sonoma State University Judy Sakaki. Second was abduction survivor and founder of the JAYC foundation and author of two best sellers, Jaycee Dugard. Lastly, was motivational speaker Dr. Tererai Trent. All three speakers discussed their personal upbringings and moving stories, creating a wave of emotions throughout the venue. 

President Sakaki started the conversation off by touching on the loss and devastation caused by last year’s Northern California fires. Sakaki, who lost her home in the Tubbs fire, discussed not only her story, but the many others who experienced the same thing “directly and indirectly,” regardless the struggles everyone had to face. 

Sakaki’s moving words paved way for Dugard to then come out and completely silence the audience with her moving story of being abducted from South Lake Tahoe at the age of 11 in 1991. Dugard was held captive for 18 years by convicted sex offender Phillip Garrido and his wife Nancy Garrido, in a shed behind their house all the while police came in and out without suspicion checking up on Garrido who was on parole for a previous kidnapping and rape.

While held captive, Dugard gave birth to two girls with without doctors,  friends, or family. Dugard raised her children, trying to hold onto any hope that remained, until she and her daughters were rescued. She was 29. 

“When I think back on the worst day of my life, and the 18 years of captivity and emotional torture I endured, what comes to my mind?” said Dugard. “First and foremost, I accept it. I accept that it happened and that might seem simple, but for me, always acknowledging that it happened and most importantly that I survived is an important reminder for me every day.”

Dugard would go onto write an autobiography titled “A Stolen Life” in 2011 as well as  “Freedom: My Book of Firsts” in 2016. 

Today, she focuses on her two children, telling her story and staying healthy and happy. Through the steps of her recovery, she created the JAYC foundation, a service for families and non-families who have dealt with abduction, using her experiences to help with others.

The third speaker is notoriously known as Oprah Winfrey’s “All Time Favorite Guest.” Dr. Trent was born in Zimbabwe, immediately having to take on the “women’s role” at a young age. She was denied an education because under the Colonial rule, it was not common for women to attend school. In order to get an education, Dr. Trent would secretly do her brothers homework. 

After being forced into marriage as a child and having 3 children by the age of 18, she knew that something needed to be done to change her life.

Her dedication and perseverance would help her achieve the ultimate goal of getting her Doctorate. 

After eight years, she finally received her GED which lead her to get her undergraduate at Oklahoma State University. Bringing her then five children to the states and working three jobs, Dr. Trent managed to get her masters and then doctorate, breaking her family’s cycle. 

“It’s how our personal dreams are connected to our greater good,” said Dr. Trent. “That’s what’s going to make our world a better world. There are two kinds of hunger in our lives: there is the literal hunger. The literal hunger is all about immediate gratification: I want it now, how many facebook likes did I get today? But the great hunger, the greatest of all hungers, is hunger for meaningful life.”

Dr. Trent and Oprah have paired up to build 11 schools so far for girls and boys in Africa. It is her mission to continue speaking and fighting for quality education for all and women’s rights across the globe. 

The inspirational speakers left everyone touched and uplifted. A student who attended this event could not have been more pleased with this year’s Women in Conversation. 

Janine Jaber, a senior kinesiology major, came to see Dugard specifically, but instead was blown away by all the speakers, “The strength it took for these women to get on stage and tell their stories to a sea of people is mind blowing. They all went through such horrible experiences, yet still came out the other side, and that is nothing short of miraculous,” Jaber said. 

“I loved how they did not want to be called survivors ... they were so much more than that: they are fighters and they are women.”

Written by Kailey Priest, Staff Writer