Eleven years ago, I left the country for an event that forever changed how I viewed myself, my chosen lifelong profession of fundraising, and the world.
Along with 400 other women representing countries from Mexico to the Netherlands, I had traveled from my suburban Philadelphia home to Toronto for the Women’s Funding Network’s annual conference.
And I had no idea what the hell I, a mom of 2-year-old twins, was doing there among philanthropists and social justice leaders and political activists. What could I possibly say in conversation with such people? What could I possibly contribute to that smart, well-regarded and esteemed group?
At 35, I had just been appointed the first-ever executive director of a small local women and girls foundation. (And it was definitely small; I was the first and only staff member.) I hadn’t even reported to work for my first day before my brand new boss – also my board president – and I boarded a plane to Toronto and immersed ourselves in women’s issues and the world of women’s philanthropy – and got to know each other real fast, as our foundation’s small budget necessitated us sharing a hotel room.
A part-time position, my new job was the perfect balance for my desire (and, yes, my need) to work and my need to be a hands-on mommy to our toddler twins. I was so grateful for that job and the experience of working so closely on issues of importance to women and girls – and especially, for my mother who cared for my kids everyday while I worked and my mother-in-law who frequently helped on evenings and weekends.
As things do, life changes. Circumstances have a way of nudging you. Priorities shift.
I’m not in that job anymore, but I’ve stayed in the fundraising field. Those toddler twins have turned into teenagers. And the older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve come to realize how vitally important it is to use our individual voices to try and make what difference we can in this world – for ourselves and for the generations to follow.
Whereas I once felt small at the global women’s conference in Toronto, one thing I’ve learned is that we all have the power to make an impact, in our own way. Opportunities present themselves to us not necessarily when we think we want them or can best handle them but when some greater force (call it fate, call it Spirit, call it nothing at all) recognizes we’re ready and gently moves us toward a braver, stronger, better self.
I’m working on paying more attention to this in my life. In the meantime, there are a few projects that I’m involved with as a volunteer that I think will help me do that.
One is #womenslives.
“Together, we are combining PRI’s global hard-news reporting on women and girls from PRI’s Across Women’s Lives beat with unprecedented social outreach by voices in the SheKnows Media community, so that important coverage of women gets discovered and can make a difference,” Stone writes.
Make no mistake: these stories are important. Only about 24% of all news subjects talk about women in any way, and only six percent of news stories highlight gender in/equality.
Women’s lives are important, which is why #womenslives is important. And that’s why I’m proud to be partnering with PRI and SheKnows Media to help share stories focusing on women’s status and equal rights, education, health, economic development, climate change and other issues. I’ll be writing blog posts that connect these global stories with something that resonates on a personal level – whether it’s a reaction to the issue or connecting it with a story from my life or someone I love.
Above all, I’m hoping to spark conversations, engage you and prompt us to ask questions.
Our voices matter. All of them.
Let the conversations begin today.