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Ruslana: A Shining Light

Five ambassadors from iLIVE2LEAD, a DC-based youth leadership-training program, that conducts training in various nations in each region of the world were invited to the 2014 Women in the World Summit.  The following report comes to you from iL2L Ambassador:  Megan Madeira

She was an iconic figure and leader of the Orange Revolution and Euromaidan demonstrations. She has served in Parliament in the Ukraine. She is a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. She worked with the UN in a campaign against human-trafficking. She was awarded the “International Woman of Courage” award by First Lady Michelle Obama. Upon introducing Ukrainian performer and activist Ruslana Lyzhychko, Ambassador Melanne Verveer was accurate in stating, “internationally acclaimed pop singer does not even begin to describe her!

Ruslana took the stage at the Lincoln Center in New York for the 2014 Women In The World Summit and began by passionately singing Ukraine’s national anthem. As she sang, she waved the Ukrainian flag in one hand and held her microphone in the other as she belted out, “We’ll stand up together.” The crowd in the theater later exemplified those lyrics as Ruslana encouraged everyone to hold up a light in solidarity and support for Maidan Square, where the Euromaidan demonstrations against government corruption, cronyism and Vladmir Putin took place. The theater became a “mini Maidan” with hundreds of lights. Ruslana smiled while looking up at the crowd and all the lights, as she explained that the lights “mean that we are power. It means we are free!”

Looking at Ruslana smiling on stage, one would never guess the struggle she has faced through her activism. During the Euromaidan protests, Ruslana spent about 100 nights out in the brutal cold. She would sing the national anthem, just as she had on stage in New York, to help keep up the spirits of the protestors. Amongst death threats and snipers searching for her, Ruslana remained on stage and continued to sing. She recalls, “Maidan is not just a place. But it’s an amazing place, the center of Kiev…We have amazing heroes, and we lost a lot of people. People were killed by snipers.” Ruslana also went on to talk about Putin and how the U.S. does not understand him the way Ukrainians do, because of the legacy of the Soviet Union. She stated, “I remember the USSR…All this comes from this period. What the Russian empire means is that human life means nothing. The Empire means everything. There is a lot of fear and a lot of bad things happening.”

Yet, Ruslana remains optimistic and upbeat about her country’s future and will continue to fight for her country. In an interview with ILive2Lead intern Paige DeRouin, Ruslana told Paige, “I stop the police with music. I can’t explain it. Maybe it’s magic.” One can see the “magic” that Ruslana brings with her to Maidan and to the Lincoln Center in the multitude of lights she encouraged people to shine, symbolizing the light, and the spirit of freedom. Often compared to Joan of Arc and Katniss Everdeen of the Hunger Games, Ruslana shines as a light, a leader, and a role model for women everywhere. She is the embodiment of the quote by Marianne Williamson, “as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others the permission to do the same.”


iLIVE2LEAD is a youth leadership-training program based in Washington, D.C., that conducts training in various nations in each region of the world. iL2L brings the most exceptional young leaders together for International Leadership Summits and works with them to develop social initiatives which they lead back in their home nations, thus creating global examples of social responsibility and a ripple effect of impact worldwide.  Contact us at

The conference closes with the audience members displaying their lights in solidarity for Maidan 

The conference closes with the audience members displaying their lights in solidarity for Maidan 

Am I free if i know a woman close to me is getting beaten for her convictions and I am doing nothing?
— Pussy Riot
We need to be at the forefront of shattering stereotypes that circulate around us.
— Layla Shaikley
Nene Goes to Washington

Barbara Walters interviews Nene Sy and Ann Tisch from The Young Women’s Leadership School. Nene was chosen to interview Michelle Obama in Washington D.C 

The best piece of advice Michelle Obama gave Nene was about doubt. She needs to accept her failure and when things don’t go your way you have to push against it. 

Before we opened our program, there were no all girls school in the inner city. The first thing we put into our programs was a college guidance. It is not if a child is going to college but where  a child goes to college. 

2014 Toyota Mothers of Invention Awards

Tricia Compas-Markman 

Lauren Shweder Biel 

Andrea Sreshta

Anna Stork 

Each Woman received a $50,000 Toyota Grant! 

Spark Summit Activist Crystal Ogar Speaks On A Panel About Self Esteem

Deborah Roberts moderates a panel with Mika Brezezinski, Gina Boswell, Crystal Ogar and Tomi-Ann Roberts.

"I feel vulnerable to all the pressures such as weight issues and body images. When I wear make up I get a positive reaction but when I don’t wear make up people seem to disregard me. It has become part of my shell." Mika Brzezinski says before she takes off her make-up.

Beauty should come from you. It should be shining from inside of you says Spark Summit activist Crystal Ogar. 

Only 4% of women believe they are beutiful. The pressure we put on ourselves is unreal says Fina Boswell. 

We need to embody our beauty. Pick ourselves up and smile. Psychologist Tomi-Ann states. 

When I was younger people always told me I looked like my mother. Now when I criticize myself, I realize that I am insulting my children in many ways the executive producer of Unilever Gina Boswell. 

What Are We Telling Our Daughters?

Mika Brzezinski moderates a panel with Toni-Ann Roberts, Winnifred Bonjean-Alpart and Rashida Jones. 

Miley’s performance with the pigtails and the lollipop, it is very childlike which is problematic says psychologist Tomi-Ann. 

Sexuality is a powerful force and no one is saying don’t use it. We have to distinguish between sexualization and sexuality. Sexualization is when we take a person’s sexuality and use it as a product. When we take specific parts like the tongue, we start saying that these body parts can stand for who the person is. 

"A huge part of this is Media Literacy. It is hard to distinguish between what’s real and what’s fake" Rashida says. 

"We shouldn’t be afraid to have a conversation. The girls are seeing this message we can’t get away from it" Actress Winnifred Bonjean-Alpart says. 

Where are the boys in this conversation asks moderator Mika Brezenzinski. Sexualization is so in the faces of boys that they begin to feel desexualized as well. 

Rashida Jones says “We are teaching an entire generation what to like.”

"The things you post online last forever and it is kind of hard to monitor what you do online" Says 16 year old Winnifred. 

"The culture is selling you a bill of goods when twerking and sticking your tongue out is power"  finishes Toni-Ann Roberts 

How good do these Baked By Melissa cupcakes look! 

How good do these Baked By Melissa cupcakes look! 

I never knew what I wanted to do but I knew what kind of women I wanted to be.
— Diane Von Furstenberg