Everybody seems to be in love with the word 'change'. It's powerful, evocative, and courageous. But I have lost count of the times I've seen this word being abused, to the point that I wonder if society still remembers that 'change' actually entails the idea of transformation: a concept which requires action.
This summer I have a glimpse of hope. I was one of 50,000 people - mostly women and girls - who attended The Sound of Change, a star-studded event in London founded by Gucci and dedicated to raising awareness for women's rights. The concert received global media coverage, and through celebrity endorsements managed to put issues such as education, health and justice right under the spotlight. It raised $4.3 million in ticket sales which are now being donated to a number of extraordinary NGOs across the world. Donations are transparent and updated in real time. They are submitted though Catapult, an innovative crowd-funding website.
I decided to get involved directly. I joined the advisory board of Chime for Change (the organizer of the concert) and I became a Curator on Catapult. I am backing innovative projects developed by three outstanding NGOs: MADRE, a global grassroots women's rights organisation, Hagar International, which supports victims of human trafficking, and Landesa, which helps the world's poor gain legal rights to their land.
Through Catapult, I am helping these organizations getting funding for three incredible projects that will have an immediate impact in the lives of thousands of women. This is what 30,000 US dollars will achieve:
• 30,000 women will obtain legal titles to their land, gaining control over the income from their farms, along with increased access to government services, and improved status in their communities.
• 20 young women farmers in Sudan will be able to invest in their communities and send their daughters to school.
• 127 Cambodian women who had been trafficked or abused will be given access to education, job training, and employment opportunities.
In a world sometimes weighed down by too much talk, these projects are a refreshing dose of action. They are in line with the work and the ethics of the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the organization I have been leading for the past five years.
At the Foundation we believe that news, information and connections are essential to create action for change. This applies to many of the areas we focus on, including women's rights.
Every year, the Foundation's Trust Women Conference creates a unique platform for action by bringing together Nobel laureates, heads of corporations and pioneers in the field of women's rights. The second Trust Women Conference will take place in London on December 3-4. This year - among the many topics - we'll be putting the focus on human trafficking and women's rights across the Arab world.
The Foundation's website, trust.org is one of the world's leading sources of information on women's rights. Our 25 journalists cover some of the world's under-reported stories, giving a voice to the ongoing struggles of thousands of women seeking freedom, justice and equality.
Our annual polls put women and women's rights at the heart of the news agenda. The result of a close collaboration with the world's leading gender experts, our latest polls: The Worst Countries to be a Woman (2011), and The Best and Worst G20 Countries to be a Woman (2012), obtained extensive media coverage around the word. In places such as India, regarded activitst and grassroots organizations used our pool as a tool to demand social change.
At the Foundation we also connect lawyers willing to provide free legal assistance to NGOs and social entrepreneurs working to guarantee and enhance women's rights across the world; we spark concrete action in key areas such as: women's access to health and education, land-rights and human trafficking.
We also contribute to the enhancement of journalism standards across the world. We trained over 11,000 media professionals across 170 countries and developed a specific training programme on women's rights reporting. In Egypt we manage Aswat Masriya an Arabic news website which also covers women's rights issues.
Both the Foundation and Catapult are channeling concrete action. And the Sound of Change concert gave me fresh hope that there's a new generation of young women and girls out there wanting to be part of the solution.
So, let's harness this great energy. Get involved. Join 'Team Monique' on Catapult and donate to MADRE, Hagar and Landesa. Follow the initiatives of the Thomson Reuters Foundation on Facebook and Twitter, and subscribe to our newsletter.
Together we can restore real meaning to the word 'change'.
Follow Monique Villa on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Monique_Villa