Educating Girls: The Virtuous Cycle

(Arko Datta / Reuters)

(Arko Datta / Reuters)

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.

Help Hurricane Survivors in Mexico

Hurricane Patricia 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.

Clock Work Orange is the New Black

AhmedThanks 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.”


Just in time for summer

insect repellentI 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.

For Father’s Day

MLK2If you are looking for a last minute father’s day suggestion, consider a donation in honor of your dad to one of these organizations, whose missions feel especially important this weekend: Southern Poverty Law Center, dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of our society; Beyond Differences, dedicated to ending social isolation among students in middle school;  Americans for Responsible Solutions, founded by Gabby and Mark Giffords to seek commonsense protections from gun violence; the National Alliance on Mental Illness, dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness.

Earthquake Disaster Relief

nepal 3As an advisory board member of Nepal Youth Foundation (NYF) in Kathmandu, I trust them to know where the greatest needs are in Nepal right now. Already NYF is delivering mattresses and surgical supplies to hospitals, and has established a shelter for patients who are ready to be discharged from the hospital but have no place to go because their homes are destroyed, there is no transport, and their relatives can’t come for them. Looking ahead to the massive demand there will be for skilled construction workers, NYF is leveraging its experience in job training and construction projects to train 1,000 people in construction skills that incorporate seismic safety, mostly in villages where the majority of the destruction occurred. Using its 25 years of experience building schools and classrooms, NYF will be rebuilding 50 devastated schools. NYF is by no means the only group that has sprung into action to help in the aftermath of the catastrophic earthquake, but they are the one I most trust to address pressing needs in a cost-efficient and effective way. In addition to emergency relief through the Red Cross, please consider supporting long-term rebuilding efforts through NYF’s Earthquake Disaster Relief Program.

$41 Million to Clear the Rape Kit Backlog

bidenYesterday, Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Barbara Mikulski announced that $41 million in federal funding will be used to test the approx. 400,000 backlogged rape kits sitting in storage around the country. While many of those kits have languished in resource-strapped labs, Mikulski noted a Department of Justice study that also found untested rape kits sitting in police officers’ desks and lockers, never even making it to the lab “because somehow or another they weren’t seen as important enough to move forward.” “There is a horrific statistic from the CDC that says one in four women will face rape, violence, or stalking,” Mikulski said. Women are then often “doubly victimized by a system that doesn’t follow through on the prosecution.” Biden and Mikulski also helped pass the 1994 Violence Against Women Act, ensuring that women would not have to pay for their rape-kit exams and would never have their sexual history used against them in a rape trial.

Exploring Resilience

Resilient children at Nepal Youth Foundation

Resilient children at Nepal Youth Foundation

At a recent gathering of The Isabel Allende Foundation, we had the opportunity to explore the topic of resilience—why some individuals and communities are able to rebound from even the most horrific tragedies while others never do so. We were particularly blessed to be having this conversation with the brilliant Nina Blackwell, an advisor to a network of philanthropies founded by Pam and Pierre Omidyar. Nina shared research from the HopeLab’s Resilience Initiative: a sense of healthy connection to others, a sense of purpose in life and a sense of control over one’s destiny appear to be key to human resilience across many cultures.  Understanding the factors that contribute to resilience can, of course, help us better contribute to the well-being of those whose lives we seek to improve through our philanthropic work. If you are aware of other interesting research on resilience, please do share.

Now, as then…

MLKIn November 1957, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote, “When evil men plot, good men must plan. When evil men burn and bomb, good men must build and bind. When evil men shout ugly words of hatred, good men must commit themselves to the glories of love.” More than 50 years later, I meet my fear and doubt by remembering these words and the courage of an extraordinary leader. Today was a fine day to recommit.

Love Heals Every Body

becca-women Thistle Farms is an extraordinary social enterprise run by women who have survived lives of prostitution, trafficking, addiction and life on the streets. To sustain their recovery programs, the women at Thistle Farms create hand-made natural bath and body products. Purchases of these products directly benefit the women by whom they were made. Through its Shared Trade initiative, Thistle Farms is now also selling products handmade by women survivors worldwide. If you’d like to save a life while shopping for the holidays, visit the online stores for Thistle Farms and Shared Trade. The sites are humble, but the products are beautiful.