By Jody Mahoney
AnitaB.org Senior Vice President of Business Development
On behalf of AnitaB.org, I had the good fortune to participate in the 12th and final Clinton Global Initiative meeting in September. After 11 years, CGI is concluding its signature annual gathering of heads of state, CEOs, global NGOs, investors, doctors, scientists, social entrepreneurs, movie stars, musicians, literati and others.
I’ve heard from regular attendees that this year has an odd feeling. The recent bombing down the street in Chelsea, security, the lack of President Obama and Hillary Clinton, the intractable ugliness that has surfaced in the White House race, and scrutiny of the Clinton Foundation seem to have sucked some of the joy out of the final CGI.
But then come the extraordinary speakers, including Sadiq Kahn, Mayor of London, talking about Brexit and observing, “…it is easy to blame someone else, thinking the land of milk and honey is just over the rainbow if we get rid of the other.” But it is the accepting of the “other,” whether it’s religion, region, sexual orientation, gender, that, according to President Clinton, makes Sadiq Kahn at the epicenter of “the great joy of an interconnected world.”
Then there’s Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, talking about the thinly veiled threats of violence against women in politics, saying that what is at stake now is “…our bridge to the 21st century. Will it be unacceptable poverty, or prosperity?” She observes that democracy is not possible if women are not included in the democratic process. As Bono observes, “The new front line is the battle of ideas—what we are for as well as what we are against.”
The “other,” as described by Kahn, Albright and Bono, is so often a woman or a girl, like Nadia Murad Basee Taha, a 23-year-old Yazidi woman who survived sexual enslavement under ISIS. Or Advija Ibrahimovic, survivor of the Serbrenica genocide against the Bosnian people when she was 11. Or child brides, married for money at age 11. Just when I think the past 40 years I’ve worked on the issue of women and girls is for naught, a beacon of extreme hope shines through.
Meet Audrey Lee, who thanks to 1000 Girls 1000 Futures, is a graduate STEM student who said this morning she no longer has to “struggle to find her STEM self” and is on her way to become a biomedical engineer. Or take the co-founders of Magic Bus. This team of three young women and one man from Indiana’s Earlham College beat out 25,000 applicants to win the $1 million Hult prize competition for developing an SMS app that lets riders pre-book their bus tickets using basic mobile phones. The Magic Bus co-founders believe they can double the incomes of people living in Nairobi slums, where Magic Bus is being piloted. Meet Anh-thu Ho, Founder and the sole woman STEM student on a team with 4 other male engineers who developed Ladon using Twilio APIs so that the 25 million Americans who do not speak English have access to live language translation for emergency services. Or Yafreisy Carrero, Landscape Mathematician and Founder & Creator of Landscape Mathematics STEM Field.
Maybe it really will be any or all of these extraordinary young women who solve the problems of the 21st century. This is our future, and I’m betting on women and girls to solve it.