Organizer Andrea Monfredi said New Mexico lags behind other states when it comes to economic recovery and she believes women are the key to its future success.
“New Mexico is known for really great things,” she said. “But it’s a little behind the times in economic development. The heart of a strong economy starts with women.”
The convention, called Women of Light, will feature more than a dozen speakers aiming to inspire attendees with their words. Monfredi said the name of the convention was selected for a few reasons.
“There’s no other place on the planet where the light shines like it does in New Mexico,” she said. “We want to inspire women and help them connect, illuminate them.”
Although many of the speakers have religious affiliations, Monfredi said the convention is open to all women and she chose speakers to whom most women can relate. The keynote speaker for the convention is Elizabeth Smart, who was abducted as a teen from her bedroom in 2002 and sexually assaulted. She was rescued nine months later.
“The biggest boundaries between women are religion, politics and socioeconomics,” Monfredi said. “We needed someone who could speak to all of these.”
Smart, she said, speaks about the role pornography played in her abuse and advocates against the sexualization of women in the media.
“Most women can get behind that type of movement,” Monfredi said. “Her story can cross those boundaries.”
Smart wrote a best-selling book, “My Story,” about her experience and is now a motivational speaker. She has worked to promote efforts such as the AMBER alert system and the Adam Walsh Child Protection & Safety Act. She also helped the Department of Justice, along with other kidnap survivors, create a survivors guide for children who have gone through similar experiences.
“She is somebody well known for the good she is doing,” Monfredi said. “It’s quite inspiring.”
Monfredi did not grow up in New Mexico but her family was from the area. Her parents own an event company in California, which is where she learned how to organize a large gathering. She moved back to New Mexico five years ago.
“My roots run very deep in New Mexico and it’s marvelous to come back to the land of my heritage,” she said.
Another speaker is Stephanie Nielson, who suffered burns over 80 percent of her body in 2008. She and her husband, Christian Nielson, along with a family friend, were flying a small plane when it crashed, burning Nielson and her husband, and killing their friend.
Before her accident, Nielson was already a popular blogger. She is the author of the NieNieDialogues, which chronicles her everyday life as a mother and wife. The couple has five children and relocated from Utah to a ranch in New Mexico last month.
Nielson will speak during the closing session about her ordeal and how she came back from it to go on and thrive in her life. She wrote the New York Times best-selling memoir “Heaven Is Here” detailing her accident and recovery.
Other speaker topics include the effects of body language, overcoming adversity, reaching one’s full potential, giving back to the community and succeeding in the workplace.
The convention starts at 8 a.m. with break-out sessions in the morning and afternoon and a luncheon.
Marketplace during the event will showcase businesses owned by women. Vendors will include photographers, make-up and other beauty consultants, insurance companies, authors, jewelry makers and cooking supplies representatives.
The day will end about 6:30 p.m.