While sisters in our chapter collectively dedicated over 1,600 hours of service last semester, we wanted to highlight a few of them who are particularly dedicated to their own personal service endeavors. Elanie Paredes, a Barnard College junior, is the founder of her own non-profit organization called Ignited Voices that focuses on reproductive justice issues. Over the past few semesters, multiple Theta sisters have worked for Ignited Voices and they too are sharing their experience with us. We asked them to discuss the work that they do, as well as how the goals of Ignited Voices align with Theta's values.
Elanie Paredes, Barnard College '19
"I was inspired to start Ignited Voices when I was a senior in High School because I felt that I didn't receive proper sex education and saw how it affected my friends. The stigma attached to sex and sex education keeps young women from being fully informed and from making the healthiest decisions for themselves. Lastly, I chose to make this a reproductive justice organization because these issues are multi-faceted and require us to examine various identities and systems of oppression, therefore we center young women of color in our work.
I see our work aligning with Theta's values and our motto "Leading Women" through our mentorship program and the fact that there isn't another program like Ignited Voices encouraging young women of color to achieve their fullest leadership potential through a reproductive justice lens.
I definitely see myself living up to our motto "Leading Women" in the future because I look forward to breaking barriers and thinking of creative ways to uplift vulnerable communities. "
Marley McAliley, Columbia College '20
"I first discovered Ignited Voices after joining Kappa Alpha Theta and meeting one of my new sisters, Elanie Paredes. As a peer educator in Peer Health exchange and an advocate for HIV/AIDS awareness, I have always been a proponent of physical and mental wellness in teens. After working with young women -- many of them women of color -- who have been sexually trafficked and exploited, I was determined to work more frequently with young women and spread the message of sexual education and reproductive health.
In accordance with the Kappa Alpha Theta motto “Leading Women,” Ignited Voices creates and facilitates a sex education and leadership curriculum designed to empower, educate, and transform young women into powerful leaders in their communities. Many young women do not have reliable resources for information or safe spaces to discuss sexuality and sexual health. With Ignited Voices, we not only educate women on reproductive rights and reproductive justice, we also promote a feminist philosophy and remove much of the stigma surrounding women’s sexuality.
In continuing my passion for HIV/AIDS awareness, I hope to make a greater impact in prevention on both a national and a global scale. Many people do not realize that teens and young adults account for 55% of new HIV diagnoses. Women of color in the U.S. are also particularly affected, with Black women accounting for 60% of new HIV diagnoses among women. In the fight against HIV/AIDS, it is therefore crucial to educate people young people, especially those disproportionately affected by the epidemic due to systemic inequities. With the study of political science and international relations, I plan to advocate for more organizations that educate teens on sexual and reproductive health around the world."
Katia Ariyan, Barnard College '20
"I found out about Ignited Voices from Elanie during recruitment! It was so cool that she had started something so powerful all by herself and I immediately wanted to get involved so I could help make positive change like Elanie was.
Being that ignited voices is a mentorship program for young women of color, I think that our work perfectly represents the idea of women sharing their knowledge, experiences, and love with other women in hopes of leading those women to become leaders themselves."