“The human spirit is everywhere….the will for partnership. For wants of tiny amounts of money, we lose 8 million children a year before their fifth birthday. These are the places that are otherwise at war if they don’t develop. We are in a cusp of history, and you can help make that history….”
-Jeff D. Sachs, Columbia Professor & Advisor, UNICEF Millenium Development Goals
Recently, I had the honor to attend the Women’s Inspiration & Enterprise (WIE) Symposium, co-founded by Arianna Huffington, Donna Karan, and Sarah Brown. Held in New York City in September, the conference boasted impressive panels of catalysts for change, from supermodel Christy Turlington Burns to former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The energy was amazing, and the thought fields were bright, lush fields blooming with flowers of every color; aromatic, fragrant, and intoxicating.
I was flying. I was in India; I was in Guatemala; I was in Cambodia; I was in Africa with the UN’s Josette Sheerhan; I was a baby crying of hunger; I was a mother wrought with pain because I couldn’t feed my crying baby. I was the mother who had to journey through my war-torn village, risking being raped & brutalized, to walk for miles to get food for my children…only to become too weak to carry both of my young children–I had to chose which one to leave by the side of the road to die, and which one to save. I was the child left on the side of the road by my mother to die, I was the child she saved. I am knowledge, I am change, I am now, and I am the future. I am hope.
In the face of the sometimes seemingly depressing state of the world, it is those of you who think differently that will change the world. It is those of you who spread your sunshine, knowing that the only thing that can break up the darkness are your rays of light, with their warm, gentle touches.
It is those of you who understand that we must educate our girls and women, because women are the architects of the future. It is those of you who understand that it is the women of the world who can be trusted to resolve conflicts peacefully and with love, without the atrocities of war. It is those of you that understand it isn’t just about getting these girls a college degree, but saving the world.
There are millions of children across the world who should be in school that aren’t. In Cambodia, most youths leave school by age 13. In Africa and other poor areas of the world, it is much of the same story. When the attrition rates are high, so are the rates of poverty, hunger, maternal mortality, disease, war, and death.
When we educate a girl, we are doing more than teaching her to read and write. We are teaching a woman, and a mother. We are teaching someone who may have otherwise been a child bride and a maternal mortality. We are saving her, so she can save her community. We are saving lives and sustaining communities.
“We are giving more than an education; we are giving heart & soul. Raise awareness. Inspire change.”
- Donna Karan, Urban Zen Foundation