Advancing Women's Rights in the Developing World.
Learn how corporations, policymakers, government leaders and motivated young women are collaborating to reduce violence and promote equality for women in developing countries.
I've heard a lot of horror stories from women in the U.S. If you lived in 1919, you couldn't vote. In the 1970s, you would never be offered a sports scholarship to attend college, even if you were Billie Jean King. And, although she ended up joining the most exclusive law firm in the world -- the U.S. Supreme Court -- Sandra Day O'Connor was only offered secretarial positions after graduating at the top of her class at Stanford Law. However, none of these gifted women were ever at risk of being sold for a cow, as routinely happens to young girls in Kenya.
That is the exact scenario that Reeta Roy, the CEO of the MasterCard Foundation, described to me earlier this year at the Clinton Global Initiative. A young African girl was being sold by her parents to a much older man, who already had three wives. According to Reeta, this young woman did something extraordinary. She simply said, "No."
Armed with a scholarship from CAMFED, rather than becoming a teen mother, the girl completed middle school. She is now getting her degree in technology, while supporting her three younger sisters on their quest for a career and financial independence as well.
CAMFED is just one organization in Africa that is providing the scholarships and schooling that young women need to make a better life for themselves and their communities. The Global Give Back Circle is another. GGBC provides the mentors, IT training and funding for Kenyan girls to complete high school and go onto college. GGBC has attracted marquise partners like Microsoft, MasterCard Foundation and USAID, among others. And Reeta Roy is one of the many VIP women who give personally of their time to mentor a young Kenyan protégée one-on-one.
Reeta Roy has been through a lot with her GGBC mentee, Lilian Kathiri. They've talked about everything from career to boys to dealing with parents' expectations. However, recently they had cause for both celebration and a larger calling. On October 18, 2011, Lilian flew to Paris, France to represent the African Union at the Girls 20 Summit. Reeta Roy met her there. The two mixed in some delicious downtime with a critically important mission: making sure that other young women in the developing world are priced higher (and treated with more dignity) than a cow.
Lilian was at the Girls 20 Summit to share her points of concern, which are, primarily:
1. Self-esteem (for boys and girls)
2. Safe, basic primary education in disaster and conflict areas
3. Financial literacy
4. Violence Prevention
5. Respect, especially between adolescent boys and girls
6. Fair and adequate female representation in senior level positions of business and government
7. Ending the practice of female genital mutilation and virginity testing
8. Maternal health and training rural health care workers
One of the most important things discussed at the Girls 20 Summit was the importance of involving the community in social change. Lilian reports that this was a constant theme at the conference and something she has witnessed in her own efforts. The Global Give Back Circle, a US based nonprofit organization, partners with the Kenya Community Development Foundation (KCDF) in order to best serve the GGBC students who are on the ground in Kenya. Also, when Lilian was volunteering time on the weekend to tutor school children, she enlisted the support of the parents. Why is this so important? Lilian writes, "The parents understood the essence of the program and therefore allowed their children to attend sessions on Saturdays and did not instead see it as time wasted ... because on weekends children help parents in family chores."
Lilian reports that wife battery is still common in rural areas in Kenya because "men still believe they have the right to punish their wives by beating them." She is encouraged, however, that other men are joining the cause for equality. Forest Whitaker was the keynote speaker at the Girls 20 Summit. Kenya also has organizations like Men for Gender Equality Now (MEGEN).
Lilian is studying medicine and aims to become a doctor. It seems like a natural profession for a young girl who, at the age of 10, removed jiggers from a local boy's leg, which made it possible for him to walk freely again within a matter of days.
Of course, all of this makes Reeta Roy a very, very proud mentor and a very respected CEO, whose social investments in CAMFED and GGBC are indeed transforming lives. Reeta and Lilian (and GGBC, MasterCard Foundation and CAMFED) are co-creating a new world for African women, and this is possible largely because of the Clinton Global Initiative, according to Reeta Roy. Reeta praises CGI, saying, "CGI is an extraordinary place that brings together amazing people ... people with dreams which have yet to be realized and people who have the funding to make those dreams possible. It's all about connections."
If you'd like to be a part of the solution, it's easier than you know. For just a small donation of money and a consistent donation of time, you too can be a Global Give Back Circle mentor. CAMFED can use more pens, books, shoes and scholarships for their scholars as well. Visit their websites to learn more.
About Natalie Pace:
Natalie Pace is the author of You Vs. Wall Street and Put Your Money Where Your Heart Is, and the founder and CEO of the Women's Investment Network, LLC. She is a blogger on HuffingtonPost.com and a repeat guest on national television and radio shows such as Good Morning America, Fox News, CNBC, ABC-TV, Forbes.com, NPR and more. As a philanthropist, she has helped to raise more than two million for Los Angeles public schools and financial literacy. Follow her on Facebook.com/NWPace. For more information please visit NataliePace.com.