What can a room full of New York City journalists, communications managers and public relations professionals do to improve maternal health in Malawi?
Last Monday, I had the opportunity to attend Better By Half, a discussion among Melinda Gates, Barbara Bush and Katie Couric. This was an intimate gathering of women’s media, non-profit, entertainment and fashion representatives with the goal to form a united front in empowering women worldwide. The discussion touched on a variety of topics including education, maternal health and child marriage, all as they relate to the rights and health of women and girls around the world.
I gained insight into programs working to empower women, but more importantly, I left with a feeling. A feeling that I am doing my part to support women and girls around the world. Awareness is key to increased justice for women and girls. I now feel even more confident I am part of a greater movement to educate and empower girls everywhere.
Melinda Gates, co–founder of the Gates Foundation and new site Better By Half, framed the conversation around three key issues all humans can focus on to empower women and girls: health, decision-making and economic opportunity. As the issues and injustices surrounding women often seem too intricate to fully grasp, Gates is raising awareness about three areas which will have a positive trickle effect through communities. Within these three buckets are sectors such as education, psychology, communication, the arts, business, and science. Gates, Bush and Couric are calling on humans to channel their strengths and experiences to promote justice for women and girls across all sectors.
How can we take action?
When In Doubt, Think Local
A local mindset works in two ways: first, think about your immediate communities. Are you, your mother, sister or daughter accurately represented by the leaders of your community and country? Do you have strong female role models in your workplace to learn from? Gates advised the audience to “work at the power structures around women first.”
Second, when searching for organizations to support, look to those that are made of local employees combating local problems. Gates and Bush spoke to the value of local leadership and how useful local fellowships are to bring successful programs to scale.
“We need to light up the already existing networks,” – Melinda Gates
Bush, co-founder and CEO of Global Health Corps, began the organization to provide opportunities for young professionals to work in the Ministries of Health in the U.S. and throughout Africa. Many Fellows are working in their home countries and tackling issues in the communities they know best. With local leaders, such as the Global Health Corps fellows, comes more equal representation in the development dialogue. This representation will ensure the members of the communities see themselves as heroes and change makers.
Share a Story
Stories connect, educate and inspire. They unite us across oceans and borders and serve as powerful ways to learn about a culture. Both Bush and Gates spoke to the power of stories as tools to engage across cultures and social sectors.
“We can be more thoughtful by sharing stories that aren’t jargon-y,” – Barbara Bush
We can learn from one another and raise awareness of issues around the world through a story. “When we hear a story we think – that person is like me,” Gates said.
Storytelling is a powerful tool to engage non-traditional individuals in the development sector through awareness and inspiration. Girls’ Globe is my platform to write about the rights and health of women and girls. I am empowered to be a story-teller where I can use a narrative to simultaneously share information about Malawi and connect with individuals outside of the development sector. This post, a result of the Better By Half event, is a perfect example where I am sharing my experiences as well as encouraging others to act.
Whether “local” is a private-sector bank, a media outlet, a school or a sports club, all individuals have transferrable skills to support the health, decision-making and economic opportunity of women and girls.
We all have a role to play in making the world better by half.