The majority of the world's refugees are women and children, as Ann Richards (Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration) noted on March 7th. Eighty percent of Afghanistan's population is under the age of 40, remarked Myra Buvinic, a Senior Fellow with the United Nations (UN) Foundation and Vital Voices. These figures feed into a combination of powerful roadblocks that fight critical changes in behavior toward the empowerment of women.
Leading up to International Women's Day, a panel discussion titled "Women's Economic Empowerment" in Washington, D.C. touched on the financial and cultural role of women around the world, and the partnerships and advocacy groups that help women of staggering economic differences support themselves, their families, and their communities.
In honor of this global event, I got the chance to meet with influential minds across the public, private and government sectors. We were joined by the UN Foundation and the Women's Foreign Policy Group to influence transformation for women at all levels of society. U.S. Senator Dick Durbin delivered a video address, and remarked on President Obama's imminent signing of the Violence Against Women Act as well as the success ofGirl Up, a campaign to raise awareness and funds for UN programs that help some of the world’s hardest-to-reach adolescent girls.
Ms. Buvinic told a powerful story about life skills training for women in Bangladesh. In this instance, a mother was taught new lifestyle practices, which enabled her to start a small business. The mother gave some of her earnings to her husband, who was unemployed. The husband used the money to buy a rickshaw and start a taxi business, which brought money into the family and allowed the mother to focus on raising and inspiring her children. As the husband found a new path to earning a living, he also turned away from a pattern of domestic violence.
We learned that the key to promoting violence prevention, international aid, and other necessary initiatives is the development of partnerships. We were forming our own simply by engaging with new friends and, perhaps, future affiliates. Communications is the glue that allows us to thoughtfully and effectively establish new roles and impart life skills where they are needed the most.
Part of my drive toward communications is from my mother, who is still a tireless professional. Since I began my career in public relations, I've seen a swell in the influence of women, from both the agency and client perspective. As a result, I have the great fortune of working with smart and motivated women on a daily basis at Qorvis. Over 90 percent of my account teams are comprised of women, which makes me quite proud.
As the panel discussion noted: more than just a time to reflect and act, this is a time to celebrate the achievements and progress of women. And it's always the time to encourage new types of collaboration between women, whether professional or personally, at home or abroad. I'm lucky to work in an environment where that behavior is not only encouraged, it's a part of the agency foundation.
By Charlotte Fox