“For me poverty is up-close and personal. That’s why I am so passionate about economic development work.”
by Nancy Kairo, World Vision Program Management Officer
“What an amazing group of women!” That was my immediate reaction to the recently concluded AYA Summit organized by ONE; an international campaign and advocacy organization co-founded by Bono (U2’s lead singer). Invited guests at the three day summit included, among others, 80+ women bloggers and activists who have a combined following of 45 million readers across 25 states.
Women of all age groups, education and income levels met “as one” to hear about and advocate for the continued empowerment of women folk across the globe. The venue for this summit was the swanky Google offices in downtown Washington D.C.
I am a Program Management Officer with World Vision’s private funding economic development team, and I was invited to represent our Strong Women, Strong World (SWSW) initiative. I shared the stage with: Ellen McGirt – award-winning business journalist, Stephanie Sinclair the amazing photographer behind Too Young to Wed, Aili Tran – Corporate Social Advocacy Manager for the Caterpillar Foundation, and Kelly Wickham – Guidance Dean at Lincoln Magnet School (a technology middle school).
We were each asked to share some personal stories about past and current work, then talk about the importance of investing in women and girls. I highlighted the fact that World Vision’s Strong Women, Strong World initiative focuses on providing women with the tools, knowledge and skills needed to save, invest and grow. After all, studies prove that when women and girls earn an income, they reinvest 90 percent of it back into their families which ensures children are well cared for.
This was the first-ever AYA Summit. The management of ONE.org decided to hold the summit so that other organizations and individuals could showcase their work to a completely new audience. The event was designed to educate influential women bloggers about what it means to be born a poor female in sub-Saharan Africa – the joys and the many challenges. I was born and raised in Kenya – even though I was fortunate to be raised in a family with economic means, many of my close family members still struggle in a cycle of poverty.
Topics covered during the three days included: human trafficking, vaccines, child and maternal health, Ebola, and economic opportunity. Other panel presenters include high-profile personalities such as Cindy McCain (wife of U.S. Senator John McCain and Founding Member of the Eastern Congo Initiative), Danai Gurira (a Zimbabwean -American actress and multi award-winning playwright), and Nicholas Kristof (a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner and co-author of Half the Sky).
The overarching goal of the summit (titled Aya after a resilient West African fern) was to make sure all the women bloggers walked away as confirmed advocates for girls and women in the developing world. If the chatter on Twitter is anything to go by, then my guess is that they easily exceeded their goal.
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