Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Reflection: International Women's Day 2017

Today is International Women's Day, and all over the world people are advocating for and celebrating various endeavors aimed at improving the lives of women and girls, and because of that, I was tempted to not write and add to the mix, but then my conscience got the better of me. You see, the world needs every one of us to raise our voices for what is right and just and good for all. As the ancient Hebrew prophet Micah has said, "What is required of you but to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God." 

When children do not have the opportunity to receive an education, and specifically 130 million girls, that's an injustice. When a person's place of birth can mean the denial of basic opportunities to have meaningful choices and improve their livelihoods, that's an injustice. When we choose to do nothing when we have the tools and the resources to literally transform lives, that's an injustice. 

Jamie and I have been privileged to be able to travel to Kenya and Ethiopia with Nuru International and witness firsthand the impact that programs are making in the lives of women and girls. Last year on International Women's Day, Jamie was able to meet with Feven Yimer, one of Nuru's Ethiopian staff members who has been leading the design and implementation of Nuru's programs to address education in the southern highlands of Ethiopia. Feven moved from her nation's capital into a remote, rural area of Ethiopia because she was very aware of the opportunities that open up for children and girls in particular when they have access to basic education. In her team's design of programs she has successfully advocated for sex-segregated latrines in the public schools in the communities where Nuru is working. This gesture which may seem small, will open the door for more girls to come to school. Feven and her team have established book banks in local schools as well as in community cooperatives where children can check out books and practice reading and developing literacy in their native tongue, in their national language, and even in English. Feven is one of many champions for justice and incredible women Jamie and I have met in our travels.

Back in 2012, we had the privilege of meeting Mama Susan in her butcher shop in Mabera, Kenya. Mama Susan was skeptical and distrustful of Nuru when it first launched in her community, but then she witnessed the life change wrought in her neighbors' livelihoods when for the first time they had a surplus of food that they had produced, they had developed savings, and they were sending their children (boys AND girls) to school because they could afford uniform and book fees for the first time. Mama Susan began participating in Nuru's programs, and through the training she received, she not only improved her family's livelihood, but she was able save money to launch her own business, a butcher shop. She is just one of thousands of people whose life has been changed for the better by Nuru's work. 

Last week, Jamie, Sylvia, and myself were able to spend time on Capitol Hill visiting the offices of our elected representatives as part of our efforts with an incredible organization started by Bono called the ONE campaign. Our purpose was very simple. We wanted to encourage our representatives to support legislation to make education more readily available for girls everywhere, AND we wanted to encourage them to not cut federal funding (which makes up less than 1% of our budget) for poverty eradication efforts globally.

Speaking of Sylvia, when I think about her in light of International Women's Day, I find myself desiring even more to be an advocate and encouraging others to do the same. Just by the grace of where she was born, she has access to incredible healthcare and education opportunities. I know that family and friends would rally to support us no matter where in the world she was born, because that is part of our shared humanity and part of what I believe it is to be made in the image of our Creator. But if we were born in another place, her education opportunities would be a question mark. If we were born in another place, we might have a significant hike just to arrive at a healthcare facility, and then, we might be disappointed and desperate to find that they had run out of medicine while we were waiting. Because we have access to a variety of healthy foods (some of which we have grown ourselves), Sylvia is able to receive nutritious meals from her mom through exclusively breastfeeding during these critical first six months of her life.

So today, if you are looking for an action to take in honor of International Women's Day (and even if you aren't), I want to give you three actions you can take. Truthfully, you can take these actions any day, but why not today? As an ancient proverb says, "Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and He will repay him for his deed." So here are the three actions.

1) Join ONE. Just sign up to become a member, and they will let you know additional steps you can take to be an advocate wherever you are.
2) Record a #GirlsCount video. Join the count and help create the longest film ever AND advocate for the 130 million girls who do not have access to basic education.
3) Donate to Nuru. Jamie and I have both directly witnessed the impact of financial support to Nuru's work, and we would love to have you join us in supporting this work.

Whatever you choose to do, Jamie and I thank you in advance, and we look forward to seeing the outcome of our work together to bring meaningful choices to even more of our brothers and sisters around the world. May your own life be enriched by your choice to make a difference!