Justice, Equality, and Why Storytelling Matters

A panel of speakers, including Judithe Registre MS’22, sit before microphones

The injustice wasn’t lost on Judithe Registre MS’22.

She may have been only 8 at the time, but when she was asked to do chores around the house, she saw that boys weren’t given the same responsibilities. They were free to play outside. “I had to learn how to cook, clean, and wash because I was a girl,” she says. “The boys didn’t. How did they not get to do this? It didn’t make sense to me. I had questions.”

Being curious, she asked those questions of adults. “No one really gave me an answer,” she says. “It was the classic, ‘I told you so.’”

Registre has never forgotten that feeling of injustice she had at 8. Children often have an innate sense of fairness, she says, and they can see clearly, in a world that’s often unkind, to what is the right thing to do. When faced with challenges as an adult, Registre thinks back to that clear-eyed sense of justice from her childhood. “That has continued to guide me,” she says. “Whenever I’m stuck, I want to go back to my 8-year-old self.”

Registre has spent a career fighting for what’s right, hoping to create a more equitable, sustainable future for women and girls. She is vice president of programs with Girl Rising, a global organization committed to empowering and educating girls. “Children are that seed we need to nurture,” she says. “They are the future.”

Through the years, Registre’s work has brought her to many countries around the world, and Apolitical, a peer-to-peer learning platform for policymakers, named her one of the 100 Most Influential People in Gender Policy for 2021. Her work now has brought her to Babson College, where she hopes a master’s degree in entrepreneurial leadership can help her create greater and more lasting change.

The Importance of Story

When discussing her background, Registre describes herself as “Haitian born, American made, globally centered.”

Judithe Registre MSAEL’22
Judithe Registre MS’22 is not only an activist and storyteller, she is also an entrepreneur, having co-founded Café Du Pain Bakery, a majority women-owned bakery.

Registre lived in Haiti until she was 12, at which point she and her family moved to New Jersey. In high school, she experienced another moment in which she was moved to speak up against a wrong. Discussing slavery in the United States, her history teacher disregarded the lives of those enslaved, as if they didn’t matter, as if they weren’t striving and yearning to live lives that were free.

Registre knew otherwise. The Haitian Revolution, in which enslaved people fought and not only earned their freedom but also established a new nation, was a point of pride in her old home country. In class, she brought this up to her white male teacher, who brushed aside her perspective, but she caught the attention of her mostly Black classmates. “The truth had been put out there,” she says.

Making sure people have the chance to tell their truth is a big part of Registre’s work today. Girl Rising, for instance, utilizes storytelling in its many forms—films, social media, television, radio, and educational curricula—to tell girls’ stories and change patriarchal attitudes so that communities stand up against gender discrimination.

Registre also is the founder and chief narrative officer of Inclusivus, a media platform that tells the stories of people who are working to transform their communities but often don’t have their voices heard. Registre hosts The Get InPowered Podcast on the site.

Stories are the “heartbeat” of everything she does, Registre says. To make change in the world, she believes, we have to hear the stories of everyone, especially the poor, powerless, and forgotten. “Stories tell us who we are and what is possible for us,” she says. “They are not to be underestimated.”

Across Five Continents

Registre has lived and worked across five continents, beginning right after college in South Africa, where she worked on social policy. Nelson Mandela was president, and it was an exciting time for the country, but Registre noticed how, despite the many changes that had come to South Africa, the weight of apartheid still hung heavy. “The historical narrative doesn’t change because the political situation does,” she says.

“I’m a builder. I like to build things. I want to understand systems and how to make them work better.”
Judithe Registre MS’22

Sometimes her work brought her to dangerous places. While working for Women for Women International, an organization committed to helping women who are survivors of war, she went to the Democratic Republic of Congo to set up an office. Rebels, however, soon took over the town where she lived, forcing her to evacuate. When she eventually returned, she collaborated with Oprah Winfrey’s O magazine and turned once more to the job of telling stories, this time collecting remembrances from women who had survived terrible trauma in Congo’s conflict.

Telling stories may always be a part of Registre’s work, but when considering how to create lasting gender equality, she’s also thinking about capital, politics, economics, and how they can all work together to improve people’s lives. Additionally, she is a believer in the power of entrepreneurship to create jobs and impact communities. In between traveling and working around the world, she has found time to co-found Café Du Pain Bakery, a majority women-owned bakery in Lawrenceville, New Jersey.

“I’m a builder,” Registre says. “I like to build things.” That quest to build a better society has brought her to Babson. She already has so much experience and know-how, but now she needs a partner to help her in advancing equality further. That partner, she believes, is Babson. “I know how to think,” she says. “I need someplace that can help me to think better.”

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