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Monthly Archives: May 2012

G(irls)20 Summit: hotter than a G6…

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With the G20 Summit coming upon us- starting June 18th in Mexico City-  and girls are taking the fate of the economic world into their hands.   At the Girls20 Summit taking place today through Thursday in Mexico City, 21 girls representing each of the member countries are participating in a model G20 Summit, and are showing how girls and women can play a leading role in global economic development.  They will be generating tangible, practical recommendations for G20 leaders to act upon through a communiqué created over the course of the summit.  These girls, who are all ages 18 to 20, are entering global arena now; they are fighting for us and our sisters abroad now…. and it is EXCITING!


If you are on Twitter, you can follow these amazing girls at @Girls20Summit.  You can also be in the same room with these girls via live stream as they hear world leaders and activists! Here is the link to the live stream!

Girls20 Summit is sending this message to the G20 leaders and all of us:

There are 3.5 billion girls and women in the world and these girls and women need to be empowered because their empowerment leads to healthier families, innovative economies and stable countries. Sign up and get your number!

Mom and I have…


# 25,527

P.S. Go here to find your Girls20 representative



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Today, the lead story on was about 22 year old Afghan woman, Aesha.  She was given to a man at a young age in payment for a crime of her relatives in traditional custom.  After years of abuse from her in laws and husband, she ran away and was punished by having her ears and nose hacked off.  She then came to the United States where she was given a home at the Women for Afghan Women shelter in New York City.

Aesha was raised in a village ruled by the Taliban and was not given access to education. She came to the states not even literate in her own language, and although thriving with an Afghan family in Maryland, her story is still unfolding.

Organizations like the Girl Effect  and 10×10 are working to bring education and equality to girls all over the world.  They believe, and have proven, that societies who educate girls are stronger and more productive.  Girls=Solutions.  I do not pretend to know the solutions to the problems in Afghanistan or Syria or South Sudan, but I know that the empowerment of girls and women are key.  Aesha has endured horrors that I can’t imagine, and she represents thousands of women and girls in her country who are still suffering.   Aesha’s story does not have an ending yet, and her journey has been difficult to say the least, but she is now going to school.  She is learning that she does not have to get married again if she does not want to.  She is learning that she can be independent.  She can be free.

Just say yes. Please?

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In honor of the post-every-day week, which I have now dubbed: Week-Talk-A-Lot,  today is about a woman who I have been familiar with for some time but who today has graciously stepped into my life.  Mindy Kaling.   I have watched her as Kelly Kapour on the television series, The Office, urge Pam to do a “fashion show at lunch” for years, but she is now becoming one of my “dream big” role models in life.  She has now written this book:

And yes, the little girl in the first picture is Mindy.

After purchasing this book about three hours ago, I can recommend it with great confidence up to page 86 (which is only because I have not gotten any further yet).  She writes about the Senegalese jerk/kid in her school that teased her about her weight, karaoke etiquette, and her trials and successes in trying to achieve her dream of being a comedy writer.   With short, hilarious essays she details the journey that has lead her to today, and as a girl trying to make it myself, I find it really inspiring.  I am sure I am not alone.

I have learned many things about myself from picking this book up today: 1) I most like to internalize advice from female comedians who have had shows on NBC (Tina Fey and Mindy Kaling) and 2) Reading these comedians memoirs makes me reflect on two very important questions: “What do I want to do? What do I want to say?”

In these important existential moments, it has become important for me to remember that two of the central things that I want to do are karaoke and dancing like Elaine on Seinfeld.  Keeping it real.  But I also want to dream big and attack those dreams. I want to dream so big and attack those dreams so ferociously that I have a crazy memoir to write about the journey.

One of my mentors, Gloria Feldt, just wrote a blog post about this SmartGirls blog, and it was a humbling experience.  As a trail blazing, passionate leader she has helped thousands of women realize their power and potential through her leadership as president and CEO of Planned Parenthood, and then as the author of “No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power.”   In a recent interview she answered the question, “What factors contributed most to your success?” She answered, “I was either dumb enough or lucky enough to say ‘Yes’ to almost every opportunity.”

Saying yes to every opportunity presented, and even saying yes to some opportunities that didn’t exist at the time, has allowed me to be around some incredible people and experience  some life changing things over the past year.  I’ve learned from Gloria that it is all about Power Tool #3 in her book: “Use what you’ve got; what you need is there if you can see it and have the wisdom to use it.”  As women with big aspirations just like Mindy, Tina, or Gloria, we can use our dreams as our jumping off points; they are what we’ve got and it is up to us to try at every angle to make them happen, saying yes all along the way.

Busting up the ol’ boys club

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Meet Leslie Knope.  Public servant, feminist, and trail blazer.  Watching her successes and struggles running the Parks and Recreation department in local government and then running for political office has been one of the most empowering television experiences of my life.  She has now won the city counselor seat making her one of the first women in her town to hold such a high position.  Her story echos millions of women around the world who struggle to enter and to change traditionally male dominated sectors of society, and although her battle for a seat is over, there are many women still fighting for theirs.

Elaine Zuckerman is a woman I met last month at the AWID Women’s Rights in Development conference in Istanbul, Turkey; she fights in Washington D.C. every day for women’s voices to be heard in international financial institutions (IFI).  She started Gender Action 10 years ago, and it is the only organization that holds international financial institutions accountable for how they effect women and girls.  Organizations like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund are taxpayer funded (so basically funded by us), and some of their main goals include working towards the financial stability and economic growth of their member countries.  For example, when a country goes bankrupt, these international financial institutions loan them money to rebuild, but also impose many policies that control those countries.  These policies are not always in the best interest of the country’s people, and especially not in the best interest of the country’s women and girls.  Here is Elaine:  As girls growing up in this crazy world, I think knowing as much as we can about how the money world works is very important.  Before going to the AWID forum, I didn’t have any interest in banking or economics, but the women at the conference, including Elaine, made it clear that if we want to change the world, we need to know about how our economies work.  The World Bank and IMF are intimately involved in the detriment or success of our sisters around the world.

“Let’s break out a map, not the old out of date one that shows where we’ve been, but a crisp new one that shows where we might go.”- Leslie Knope


What it is is beautiful

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With some of my favorite smart girls living out loud in mind (who you can watch HERE), I am conducting an experiment this week in which I post every day.  There are brilliant and interesting women and girls surrounding us all the time and this week my antenna is up and ready to hear their stories!  I embark on this self imposed challenge with the hope that I am not alone in my eye-opening; please join and if you feel so led, share!  What smart girls/women living out loud did you meet today? and why are they amazing?

This morning I woke up literally at the crack of dawn to join my mom and her friend on their 5:45am walk.  My mom and her friend have many differences, chiefly political party affiliation.  This “left” or “right” argument is one that drives many apart and as we have seen over the past years, is an argument that makes our country look like a dysfunctional couple bound for intense marital counseling or divorce. However, when these differences are discussed and debated between my mom and her friend, the beauty and functionality of the two halves making a whole is evident.  Yes, it is true what Meryl Streep says that “women can be hard on each other,” but what she goes on to say is even more true- that “we really  look so deeply because we want inspiration.”
I am always amazed at the power of the collaboration of women, and the empathy and understanding that most of the time outweighs the political or petty.  I am grateful for the example of the women in my life and look forward to finding more inspiration to live by.

Until tomorrow- 

Eight Year Olds from Kenya Don’t Mess Around

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Two eight year old feminist twins from Kenya at the AWID forum on Women’s Rights and Development in Turkey last month sat down with me and shared some powerful stuff: their dreams.  These awesome, short people threw themselves in the thick of the Young Feminist Corner and fit in perfectly with the other world changers!   I asked them during our interview what they would like to ask girls in the US… they ask the hard questions: “Do you think feminism is right or wrong?” “Do you think boys and girls are equal?”

Wangeci and Mutuma identified the questions whose answers still plague gender equality in many parts of our country today.  These twins are identifying the unequal in their communities and working to bring justice… can we do the same?

I challenge you to look for the unjust in the relations between girls and boys, women and men in your communities… do these questions still seem so simplistic?   Let’s take a page from our new friends from Kenya and ask ourselves the hard questions- and feel empowered because change is happening and we can easily join in!