one campaign & the aya summit

Another huge highlight of October was the opportunity to travel to Washington DC to attend the AYA Summit, hosted by the ONE Campaign and Google.  

The ONE Campaign is a nonpartisan, advocacy organization dedicated to the fight against extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa.  ONE works to convince governments (the United States, as well as others) to invest in smart programs that help to eliminate poverty and preventable disease in a sustainable way.  Three years ago, I was invited to join the ONE Campaign as part of their "ONE Moms" advisory board, a board put together to focus on work that specifically supported mothers in Africa.  As part of my involvement, I was invited as a guest of ONE to visit Kenya, to see all the amazing successes that are happening, particularly in maternal health, the fight against HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, and other diseases.  It was, as you might imagine, a life-changing trip.  Then in 2012, I had the opportunity to return to Africa, this time to Ethiopia, again with ONE, to see the magic that is happening there.

This year, "ONE Moms" has morphed into ONE Girls & Women, because it has become increasingly obvious that poverty disproportionally affects women:  from the lack of electricity making it difficult and dangerous for women when they give birth, to the difficulty of keeping girls in schools to get an education, to difficult topics like human/sex trafficking, among so many other reasons.  And to launch this initiative, and help educate bloggers about all the issues that women face around the world (but particularly in Africa), ONE invited 75 bloggers to hear the stories from people who are on the ground, helping in the fight against poverty and preventable disease.  

And in true ONE fashion, everything we saw was incredibly impressive.

The incomparable Patricia Amira, informally known as "Africa's Oprah."  She is a force of nature, and an amazing person (I got to meet her on my trip to Kenya), and was thrilled to learn she was to be our MC for the two days of the AYA Summit. 

The incomparable Patricia Amira, informally known as "Africa's Oprah."  She is a force of nature, and an amazing person (I got to meet her on my trip to Kenya), and was thrilled to learn she was to be our MC for the two days of the AYA Summit. 

Poet Marquesha Babers (who performed her mindblowing poem, "Rising") and Holly Gordon, campaign founder and executive producer of the documentary film, Girl Rising, about how education can completely change the trajectory of the lives of girls born into poverty.

Poet Marquesha Babers (who performed her mindblowing poem, "Rising") and Holly Gordon, campaign founder and executive producer of the documentary film, Girl Rising, about how education can completely change the trajectory of the lives of girls born into poverty.

The conference was intense:  we learned about everything from education initiatives, to fighting human trafficking, to the efficacy of vaccination programs and GAVI, to what's being done to fight ebola.  We heard from physicians to activists to politicians to authors to actors.  And throughout it all, even during the heaviest of conversations, the emotion that most often rose to the top was one of hope.  The truth is, good things are happening in this world.  

We are capable of changing the world.

Nobel laureate Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, president of Liberia, addressed us via video.  "Help us by urging your Congress to lend its support to help end ebola, and prevent the stigmatization of its victims," she said.  And incidentally, if you'd like to do more to help end ebola, you can give generously to these trusted organizations.

Nobel laureate Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, president of Liberia, addressed us via video.  "Help us by urging your Congress to lend its support to help end ebola, and prevent the stigmatization of its victims," she said.  And incidentally, if you'd like to do more to help end ebola, you can give generously to these trusted organizations.

Actor Danai Gurira, most famous for her role as Michonne in The Walking Dead.  I've never watched the show, but as it happens, she's also a writer and producer, and did a portion of her original play about the civil war in Liberia, from the point of view of girl soldiers.  She was positively mesmerizing, and received a well-earned standing ovation for her performance.  While I may never actually watch The Walking Dead, Danai has got herself a life-long fan in me, no question.

Actor Danai Gurira, most famous for her role as Michonne in The Walking Dead.  I've never watched the show, but as it happens, she's also a writer and producer, and did a portion of her original play about the civil war in Liberia, from the point of view of girl soldiers.  She was positively mesmerizing, and received a well-earned standing ovation for her performance.  While I may never actually watch The Walking Dead, Danai has got herself a life-long fan in me, no question.

Jamie Drummond, executive director and global strategy for the ONE Campaign.

Jamie Drummond, executive director and global strategy for the ONE Campaign.

The conference was standing-room only, but it didn't matter:  we were all just thrilled to be in the room at all.  Three of the lovely powerhouses who attended, from left to right:  Luvvie Ajayi, Kelly Wickham and Meredith Walker.  Amazing women, all.

The conference was standing-room only, but it didn't matter:  we were all just thrilled to be in the room at all.  Three of the lovely powerhouses who attended, from left to right:  Luvvie Ajayi, Kelly Wickham and Meredith Walker.  Amazing women, all.

The conference was incredible, and we left with so many takeaways from the summit (many of which were beautifully encapsulated by my friend Rebecca Woolf, here -- I encourage you to go take a look, to learn concrete actions to address some of the issues that we discussed at the summit).  But mostly, I'd like to invite you all to do the following:

1.  Join ONE Girls & Women (even if you're not a woman -- believe me, all are welcome).  For the record, ONE never asks for your money -- ever -- just your voice.  By becoming a member of ONE (by clicking here and scrolling down to the section that says "Take Action" and filling out the form), you will become a part of this incredible organization, and help them -- by simply adding your name -- ensure that governments continue to fund initiatives that help fight extreme poverty and preventable diseases in the places that most need it.  

2.  "LIKE" the ONE Girls & Women Facebook page.  By liking this page, you'll be able to keep up with all the things that are happening around the world to help girls & women thrive.  Trust me, this is one of the feel-good pages of Facebook -- you want to do this.

Thanks so much to ONE & Google for such an inspiring experience.  I'm so proud to do what I can to serve ONE and everything they do.

 

Song:  Imagine, as performed by Herbie Hancock, featuring P!nk, Seal, India.Arie, Jeff Beck, Konono #1 and Omou Sangare

 

Karen WalrondComment