NEW YORK CITY — When Andi Andrew decided to launch a movement to empower women, she wanted to name the initiative “She is Free.” She logged online at the domain sheisfree.com and discovered, to her shock and dismay, that it was a sexually explicit pornography and sex toy site.
“That was the catalyst for me,” Andrew said in an interview with Opportunity Lives. “If this is what a free woman looks like to our world, then something is very broken. I am willing to take back this territory that has been perverted and has been distorted.”
Since then, Andrew and her team were able to acquire that domain and start She Is Free, a gathering they describe as “helping women rediscover femininity, and experience true freedom – spirit, soul and body.” Andrew co-pastors with her husband at the Liberty Church, a nondenominational Christian house of faith with branches in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Zimbabwe. She Is Free is one of the ministries under that broader faith umbrella.
Andi Andrew speaks at She Is Free’s event in April.
“Freedom has been something that has kind of been the foundation of our church,” Andrew said. “Freedom is a mantle and a mandate on my life … My message is a message of vulnerability and transparency about my journey of moving to freedom and living in freedom. You can make the decision to walk out of an awful life. But you have to make decisions to maintain that freedom.”
She Is Free hosted its first conference in Manhattan in April this year, when Andrew said some 400 women listened to high-powered spiritual leaders and connected with each other around these themes. Andrew said attendees spoke about many different struggles with freedom from a range of backgrounds. Andrew said she has counseled high-performing, career women who felt they’d compromised their values to attain high status and women who were dealing with abuse that kept them from achieving or having healthy self-esteem.
“I want She Is Free to be a place where freedom in any shape or form is grown, cultivated and released in any way shape or form,” Andrew said. “I want women not to have to fight for their freedom, but to live from a place of freedom because no matter what happens around them they are free inside themselves.”
She Is Free has held smaller gatherings since its initial launch, and Andrew and her team are planning a September conference in a facility with capacity for 800 seats, or double the initial gathering. The movement has partnered with various charitable causes like The Giving Keys to help fight homelessness and Treasures, a non-profit founded by a sexual abuse survivor and former stripper who recovered and has devoted her life to women’s empowerment. Andrew has also counseled young women who have begun working to create policies that fight sex trafficking.
Andrew said she is frequently asked whether she considers herself a feminist, a question she wrestles with in light of many of the left-leaning political connotations associated with that word.
“I sat on that question,” Andrew said. “I think for me, there has been, because of my conservative views, there has been a bit of negativity around that word. I wouldn’t say I’m an expert or not. I would say I believe in women and I believe in equality and freedom in all people. If that’s being a feminist then I guess I’m there … I’ve got just such a simple way of looking at things, I just want people to be set free.”
Though her work is currently in a faith-based setting, Andrew said she is open to She Is Free growing beyond religion into a more general, cultural or civic setting.
“We’re open to wherever this thing leads us because it’s really just a baby,” Andrew said. “I do believe that we will have an influence outside the Christian Church, we already have in very small ways … I think for me the goals and aspirations for She Is Free is just to gather any woman who desires to set herself free and who desires to be empowered and to live this life. Our prayer is that it will grow and become a movement that will reverberate across the earth. I genuinely just want this to become a movement of women to be empowered and set free in their spheres of influence.”
Carrie Sheffield is the Senior Writer at Opportunity Lives. You can follow her on Twitter @carriesheffield and on Facebook.