On March 19th, I was honoured to give the keynote speech at the 5th Annual Hands of Hope Luncheon for Rising International. Rising International is an incredible organization that seeks to eliminate extreme poverty in the world through the economic empowerment of women in some of the world’s poorest countries.
I love the layered effect, the wave effect, the ripple effect of this organization’s work. The women who create the product, called Rising Artisans, create beautiful homemade crafts providing them with money to support themselves and their families. The product is then sold by Rising Representatives in the United States, most of whom are from low income backgrounds themselves. Women like me, like you, then host the parties where the Rising Rep presents and sells. The monies raised support Rising’s minimal, and I mean minimal, infrastructure costs, the sales representative, and the producing woman. Meanwhile we get to buy really cool goods and feel great about it. This is what you might call a win, WIN, WIIINNNNN. ( you can also buy direct from their web-site.)
Through this partnership, Rising International is building a community of women who are taking charge of their lives, and are helping each other to rise out of poverty by becoming economically self sufficient. Founded by Carmel Jud in 2003 ( pictured) , Rising International looked to the business model of Avon, where 5 million women generate $10 billion in revenue every year by selling Avon products. Imagine the economical and social impact of 5 million women selling products to benefit the world’s poorest women. The possibilities are endless and paradigm shifting.
When Carmel asked me to give the key-note speech, how could I say no? My remarks followed the logic model of the TED Talk I gave last year. In this speech I talk about the reasons why there is no better time than the present day to address the gender inequalities that exist on every level of life in every country in the world, and do something about it! While there are many reasons for why now is the right moment, the four primary points I address are:
1) The fact that there is a growing body of research that shows that gender equality is good for economic development, peace, and sustainability. We case has been made! ( see my resource section)
2) That men are recognizing the benefits and importance of gender equality and are joining women to create positive change. Gender inequality is no longer framed as a women’s issue, it as a human rights and economic development issue.
3) That technology is now playing such an important role in both communicating need, and enabling action.
4) The fact that more and more people are using their money and resources to advance the causes and values in which they most believe.
With all of these factors combined, there has never been a better time to enact real and lasting change for the empowerment of women and girls worldwide.
My speech went on to say that money should not be viewed as a symbol of power, but rather as a powerful tool for social change. Money is not the end game, it is the means. It is high time we rethink about the role that many plays in our lives and in our culture in general. I asked everyone consider how they are using their financial resources to serve their values and vision.
It is well documented that women make the majority of purchasing decisions in households in the United States. This is why billions of dollars are spent every year in ad campaigns that are targeted directly at women. Imagine how quickly things would change if we were to use that incredible financial power to support women and women’s leadership? If, for example, women were to put their purchasing power behind companies that had a critical mass of women on their boards, and stop buying products from them if they don’t, imagine how quickly corporate boards would diversify. If you think that is a good idea but are asking yourself how would I know that? Check out Women on Boards 2020 and their corporate directory. An IPHONE AP is coming!
What I hope people took away from both my speech at Rising International, and from watching my TED Talk, is that a world where women and girls enjoy more equal status at all levels of society is a world that is not only attainable, but one that we all have the power and resources to make happen, today. How we use our financial resources: our giving dollars, our investment dollars, our spending dollars, are key to this vision. When it comes right down to it, there is simply no good reason for the stalled progress of the past decade. It is time for NO EXCUSES, let’s work together for change.
Generously said from Carmel..
Jacki Zehner, CEO of Women Moving Millions delivered the keynote address for our Hands of Hope Luncheon on March 19th. We’ve been producing this luncheon event for 5 years now, and this was by far our most successful event ever. Jacki’s message was powerful: that we must more fully use our financial resources; our giving, spending and investing dollars, in greater alignment with a vision for a more just and equitable world. Event attendees have been calling and emailing our office expressing their excitement and conviction for joining Jacki in supporting and empowering women and girls. Jacki Zehner is a powerful speaker with a powerful purpose who is transforming lives, and we are deeply grateful she shared her passionate message at our event.