Investing in Women “not about the money” for Exxon Mobil

September 24, 2009 at 3:04 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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reporting this week from the Clinton Global Initiative

By choosing ‘investing in women and girls’ as the topic for his opening plenary, President Clinton sent a message that women were at the center of his agenda. The panel embodied the CGI spirit of broad and innovative coalitions, with speakers from the government, private sector and women’s organizations.

Two CEOs sat on the stage: Rex Tillerson of Exxon Mobile and Llyod Blankfein of Goldman Sachs.  They were joined by Melanne Verveer, the US ambassador for global women’s issues, Zainab Salbi, Women for Women International and Edna Adan, the founder of a maternity hospital in Somaliland.  Twelve new commitments for women in girls were announced at the session including training in entrepreneurship and financial literacy and access to low-cost technology.

On one hand, the unprecedented high-level private sector participation means that the women’s agenda has gone mainstream; real change will not happen if only women are talking to each other. On the other hand, the panel would not have succeeded if it hadn’t had two women from the trenches who could keep the discussion grounded in the life and death realities many women face.

But when the discussion turned to his corporate philosophy for focusing on women, Tillerson said that for empowering women, “money is not the issue”.   Easy for him to say as CEO of the world’s second largest company.

Zainab Salbi was quick to disagree, arguing that it is absolutely about increasing resources and  political commitments for women and girls.

Tillerson tried to backtrack, clarifying his remarks by saying it was about education, training and staff capacity, not just pouring money into a problem.

Still, it was a reminder that even though they may be sitting on the same stage, the reality of a woman’s organization and Exxon Mobile are quite far apart.  While it is “not about the money” for  Exxon, it is all about the money for thousands of women’s organizations like Salbi’s and Adan’s that are struggling to help women every day survive childbirth and rebuild their lives from war.

But the question seemed to open a door, and Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of Goldman Sachs reframed the question, asking: are we making all the investments that we can make in women and girls? are we at capacity?

I think the answer is a resounding no.   Stay tuned for more updates from CGI.


Meeting Nick Kristof pays off

May 7, 2009 at 4:38 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Been celebrating for 2 days now, SHE is featured in Nick Kristof’s blog “Getting Girls in School in Africa”.

Comments are fascinating: why are American women wanting African women to use reuseable pads when they do not use them themselves? Hypocrisy!  The beauty is that SHE’s market-based approach will prove that if women want the product, they will buy it, plain and simple.

Well, in one of my many thesis interviews Jene O’keefe Trigg gave me a very good tip about using press coverage like this:

  • Ask everyone you know to comment on the article, it will show the journalist its a hot subject
  • Analyze the comments for new leads and ideas
  • Use some of the comments in your materials to demonstrate need and interest

Please show your love and  add your own comment on NYT site.

I finally meet Nick Kristof

May 3, 2009 at 8:28 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Just wrapped up the Women’s Funding Network conference in Atlanta. One theme I heard throughout  was the need for foundations to use strategic communications to tell their stories, influence policy, raise more money etc.   Nick Kristof, the conference keynote, summed it up when he said, “the average toothpaste has better messaging than humanitarian organization.”  Here, here!

So, I have been waiting for my chance to meet Kristof for years. In his remarks he talked about the most effective interventions for keeping  girls in school – things like de-worming medication or sanitary napkins as opposed to building more schools.  Well, he said the magic words for SHE, and I had a chance to go up to him afterward and make the pitch:  SHE is launching women-led businesses in Africa that keep girls in school by selling low-cost locally made sanitary napkins!   He wanted to know how much it costs to keep a girl in school by providing a sanitary napkins – he is all about the best return on investment.

Fine.  But then my new favorite woman Yassine Fall from UNIFEM took the mic and told him the reason why girls don’t go to school was that structural adjustment from the IMF has stopped governments from investing in public goods like education and eliminating school fees.   Policy is the problem, not as Kristof suggested, men spending less of the family income on alcohol and entertainment and more on education and health. She said his analysis was demonizing African men as irresponsible fathers who only drink beer.  The confrontation was an exciting moment in the fancy hotel ballroom.

Well, its too late for Kristof to add Yassine’s perspective in his upcoming book called “Half the Sky” all about women’s rights.  He both opened and closed his speech saying: “I truly believe the struggle of the 21st century is a struggle for greater gender equity in the world.” Good messaging — take note women’s funds!

Unleashing the Girl Effect

July 6, 2008 at 7:51 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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This video explains why investing in girls is a save the world strategy using just words and music. No girls even! I love it and I am planning to use it in a workshop I am doing next week for the gathering of the Women of the ELCA. If you watch the video directly from Youtube — and it is doing well with 63,000 views — there are companion videos that feature girls talking about their lives, like Addis from Ethiopiawho was married to a 40-year-old man at age 12 and had to drop out of school.

Though this is where my training in branding and gender justice collide. I love anything that makes more people aware of how poverty limits the full being of women and girls. But after the feel good music winds down I ask: We are just going to give a girl an education and a cow and everything will be fine? Is it really the obligation of a woman to make a new and visible economic contribution to the village before she is listened to by male leaders?

Well, you can’t get to every issue in a three-minute teaser. But the website could do a better job with linking people into action strategies. Right now it just links to a fact sheet that any 101 student could have assembled. I want to know more of the backstory and forward strategy of this video, it is a collaboration between UN Foundation, Nike Foundation, NOVO, Plan and others.

I’ll have my eye out for more impacts of the girl effect. I hope ripples of girl power are felt round the world.

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