People always ask me “why have you chosen to support women and girls” which immediately follows with “why don’t you help girls here in the USA?”
Years ago, when I was a teenager, I went camping with a friend in Northern Vermont. We ended up pitching our tents in the front yard of her sister’s home which was situated in the midst of the most beautiful countryside I had ever seen. My friend’s sister lived miles from anywhere in a small cabin with three children, no running water or electricity, and a husband suffering from PTSD after serving in the Vietnam War. There was a large vegetable garden, a cow, a goat and some pigs. At the time I thought all food came from the supermarket and this was the first time I had ever seen subsistence living. All on her own, this young woman took care of all the work that kept her family up and running on a daily basis. She received WIC assistance (food assistance from the state for Women Infants and Children) as they had very little income. Even silly little teenage me could see that the food in the box was mediocre at best. Some people would welcome this lifestyle as idyllic but that was not what I saw. I saw a woman (barely older than myself) worn out from her daily work, too far from anyone to have friends or anything akin to a social life, stressed from the random and often violent behavior exhibited by her husband and the care of her children. After seeing the life this woman endured I knew that at some point in my life, I didn’t know how or when, I wanted to do something that would help women and children.
Years later, in walks Nicholas Kristof. I started reading his Op Ed columns in the New York Times and many of them referred to the life and struggles of women in the Third World. I was hooked by his stories and was inspired to start doing something, anything to make a contribution in some way. When I was finally able to meet him at a conference it was pathetically like a young girl meeting a rock star. What I didn’t realize until I read Half the Sky was that his wife, Sheryl WuDunn, was a correspondent and author and as a couple they won the Pulitzer Prize for journalism. She has become my new rock star. I am posting her TED Talk because she is incredibly passionate, articulate and authenticate when expressing how imperative it is to include women and girls in any dialogue regarding poverty alleviation.