Thanks to Huffington Post, I have a new hero. Theresa Kachindamoto, senior chief in the Dedza District in Central Malawi made 50 of her sub-chiefs sign an agreement to end child marriage in her area of authority. She also made the leaders annul any existing underage unions, and send all of the children involved back to school. Last year, Malawi’s parliament passed a law forbidding marriage before the age of 18. But under customary law of the traditional authorities, and the constitution, Malawian children can still marry with parental consent, and 1 in 2 girls in the country is married before she is 18. As in many nations, impoverished parents marry off their young daughters in exchange for a dowry and see no alternative to doing so. “I talk to the parents,” Kachindamoto said to U.N. Women last year. “I tell them: if you educate your girls you will have everything in the future.” Over the past three years, Kachindamoto has annulled close to 850 marriages. Hers is a beautiful example of changing the world by acting where you can–with as much conviction and power as you can muster.
Introduced by Assemblymember Jim Frazier, AB 2855 places duplicative and unnecessary requirements on nonprofits and then imposes penalties that are far out of proportion for noncompliance. The bill fuels misconceptions about nonprofits and overhead, relying on stories of a few high-profile scam charities to create an undue burden on all. Importantly, it does nothing to protect the public from bad players. CalNonprofits is organizing a campaign to stop the bill and you can help. First, for more information, read their open letter to Assemblymember Frazier to familiarize yourself with the issues. Second, Frazier’s office now with this simple message: “I am asking you to withdraw AB2855.” Call 916-319-2011 today. Then pass this information on to your nonprofit colleagues and ask them to oppose AB 2855.
On Friday, February 26, Google.org announced a grant of $1 million to Bryan Stevenson and the nonprofit he founded, Equal Justice Initiative. And I could not be happier to hear it. The grant, “to push America to confront its violent racial history,” will help fund online public education programs, as well as Stevenson’s efforts to create civil rights landmarks such as the nation’s first lynching memorial and memorial markers at lynching sites. Stevenson is an experienced and credible leader, as well as an inspiration. If you are not already familiar with his work, I strongly recommend reading his book Just Mercy (reviewed here by the New York Times), or taking a few moments to watch his TED talk.
I am just back from Nashville, Tennessee, where I had the great privilege of visiting Thistle Farms – a community of women who have survived prostitution, trafficking and addiction, and established the most successful social enterprise of its kind anywhere in the world. Spending time with Becca Stevens, the organization’s founder and spiritual leader, and learning more about how the women harness the power of love to heal was one of the most profound and beautiful experiences of my life. Their accomplishments are far too many to share here, but I hope next time you want to buy a gift for someone you love you will shop for Thistle Farm products as well as those from their Shared Trade partners — small enterprises worldwide that are also protecting and economically empowering women. (Pictured right: Becca Stevens, Thistle graduate Anika and Isabel Allende)
Each year at this time, I like to share a few thoughts on giving. But these are tough times and this year, finding things to say about my brand of generosity (which is steady but incremental) was not easy. Nonetheless, I tried. My 2015 piece on giving is now available at the online blog Medium. I hope you will take three minutes to read it. Even more, I hope you will share it with those you know who might also need a kind of a pep talk to stay hopeful in spite of all evidence to the contrary.
You didn’t hear it here first, but it’s been a swell couple of days for envisioning a brighter future. First there was yesterday’s news from Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg of the Breakthrough Energy Coalition—a new global initiative aimed at spurring private investment in clean energy. And today, Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan welcomed their daughter Max to the world by pledging 45 billion to “make the world a better place.” The cynics will say what cynics say. But after the darkness of the past two weeks, I’m going to ride this wave of hope and audacious generosity for all its worth.
Today, in The Atlantic, Michelle Obama outlines the case for addressing the global girls’ education crisis not just with resources like scholarships and supplies, but also by addressing “the broader cultural beliefs and practices that can help cause and perpetuate this crisis.” Obama promises to urge countries around the world to “both make new investments in girls’ education and challenge laws and practices that silence, demean, and brutalize women—from female genital mutilation and cutting, to forced child marriage, to laws that allow marital rape and disadvantage women in the workplace.” Time and again, it has been shown that when educated girls become healthy, financially secure, empowered women, they’re far better equipped to advocate for their needs and aspirations, and challenge unjust laws and harmful practices and beliefs. Thus, the virtuous cycle. I am grateful that another powerful female leader is committing herself to the cause.
As you know, although Hurricane Patricia was the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Western Hemisphere, and trusted experts in Mexico predicted terrible damage and loss of life, the storm significantly weakened when it hit land and left much less damage than expected in its wake. American Jewish World Service is still reporting that there is significant damage from heavy rain and winds in the northern mountain region of Oaxaca and in other rural regions where vulnerable communities have a great deal of clean up to do in the aftermath of the storm. While the call for international aid is not as dire as it was a couple of days ago, help is still needed. If you’d like, you can help hurricane survivors and their families by donating to the AJWS Hurricane Patricia Emergency Relief Fund.
Thanks to Dave Pell for pointing out that “Timing is everything. That’s why you’ve undoubtedly already heard the story of Ahmed Mohamed, the fourteen year-old who was taken from his Dallas high school in handcuffs after he showed up with a homemade clock. School officials and police (who opted not to file charges) contended that the clock could have been mistaken for a bomb. It turns out the only thing that exploded was the Internet. The story started to go viral last night, and by midday, the Potus had chimed in with a tweet of support and an invitation to the White House. This is a story of the power of social media; and it’s also evidence that when it comes to public attitudes towards something like the ridiculous arrest of a Muslim kid with a clock, times have changed.”
I hate mosquitoes and nasty chemical repellents so I can’t wait to try the Rose Geranium Insect Repellent from Thistle Farms. It’s organic, DEET-free, and made by women in Rwanda who have survived genocide. My friends at Thistle Farms swear by it and I adore them so it’s a must for me and I hope for you. Thistle Farms is a community of women who have survived trafficking, prostitution and addiction and their program and work are amazing. To learn about the repellent, watch this two-minute video. You can buy the Rose Geranium repellent for $14 a bottle or $26 for two by visiting Thistle Farms online here.