Women Leading Change Across Generations with Vital Voices Across the Globe
By Sally Field and Maria Bello
We were honored last month to join Vital Voices for the 2009 Global Leadership Awards because we share a simple belief: that no country can prosper if half of its population is left behind. The full participation of women in all sectors of society is one of the best ways to achieve peace, progress, and prosperity.
Vital Voices invests in women leaders – women who are visionaries, entrepreneurs, and realists; women who are working to expand economic opportunity and political participation, fight corruption, safeguard human rights, and promote peace and reconciliation. For the last 12 years, Vital Voices has been identifying, training, and empowering female leaders around the world. Since 1997, its network of over a thousand partners, pro bono experts, and leaders have trained and mentored more than 7,000 emerging women leaders in 127 countries. The most powerful thing is how they return to their communities and “pay forward” the investment made in them by training and mentoring thousands more. They are the vital voices of our time.
The theme of the evening’s program was “Women Leading Change Across the Generations.” Vital Voices invited hundreds of girls and young women from the region to join an audience of over 1,100 government, non-profit and business leaders, journalists and diplomats. The evening highlighted the idea that leadership is not a final destination in life; it’s about the actions one takes on a daily basis to bring about positive change.
Nicholas Kristof, Ben Affleck, Maggie Grace, Candice Bergen, Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, Diane von Furtsenberg, and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison helped spotlight Vital Voices and an extraordinary group of honorees from Afghanistan, Nigeria, Cambodia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. They share a common courage, tenacity, dedication, and vision for a better world. They have raised their voices to build economic opportunity, fight for girls’ education, safeguard human rights, and speak out against violence and oppression. Their efforts are not only changing the world, but are inspiring others to step up, speak out, and heed the call to action.
Perhaps the most inspiring part of the evening was when Sen. Hutchison was joined on stage by more than a dozen past Vital Voices honorees who had traveled to Washington from all corners of the globe to pay tribute to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton for her trailblazing work to champion the cause of women’s progress around the world. As Inez McCormack, a Northern Irish peace-leader stated, “She has used her voice to speak for those who have no voice, and in the process she has raised the issues affecting the lives of women and girls to the world stage. We are forever grateful for her leadership.”