CARE Celebrates the 100th Anniversary of International Women”s Day
On March 8, CARE kicked off its 2011 Conference and International Women's Day Celebration in Washington D.C. with a tribute concert by recording artists India.Arie, Michael Franti, American Idol alum Crystal Bowersox, Sarah Darling, and, in an exclusive U.S. premier performance, Idan Raichel.
Breakfast and Welcome Plenary
CARE's annual conference opened on March 9 to a packed Washington Hilton ballroom of 1,100 advocates from across the country.The room was charged with excitement for a stellar line-up of influential speakers and issue experts including CARE President and CEO Helene Gayle, Melinda Gates, Mrs. Laura W. Bush, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah and Ambassador Melanne Verveer.In addition, CARE staff from nearly 40 countriesââfrom Egypt to Afghanistanââparticipated in the conference and shared their unique in-country perspectives.
Dr. Gayle began the breakfast plenary by welcoming the youngest participant,10-year-old Maya, who sold eggs from her chickens to raise money to attend the conference, and the oldest participant, 90-year-old Eileen Meader.This year's conference had record-breaking participation with 1,100 advocates from 49 states.
''We know that empowering women is the single most effective means we have of fighting poverty,'' said Dr. Gayle. ''Today is about working towards a world that acknowledges the power and potential of women as a matter of fact: a world in which the only limit for a woman is the reach of her dreams and how far she's willing to go to make them reality.''
''In many places around the world, myths hold back half of society,'' explained Dr. Gayle.''Myths yank girls out of school.Myths cause hunger.Myths mean that women don't get the health care they need.Myths kill.''
CARE unveiled a unique report, ''The Top 10 Myths about Women & the Heroes Who Bust Them,'' in honor of the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day.
''Change comes when people stand up, speak out, and refuse to accept things as they are.Myths come tumbling down because women in the most unlikely places see their own promise, even when others doubt it, and dare to fulfill their potential, no matter what stands in their way,'' added Dr. Gayle
Dr. Gayle motivated the crowd as they headed into a day of training on CARE's three priority issues: keeping the foreign aid budget intact, empowering girls through education and financial opportunities for women.Helene noted the timeliness of advocates' efforts on Capitol Hill as budget talks remain front and center among members of Congress.
Following Dr. Gayle's remarks, Ambassador Melanne Verveer thanked the advocates and CARE Country Directors for all their tireless work and for advocating on behalf of poor women and girls everywhere.Ambassador Verveer fully supports CARE's mission to empower women as she has witnessed the resiliency and the strength of women across the world to be the ''agents of change'' in their communities.
''No country can get ahead by leaving half of their population behind,'' said Ambassador Verveer.''Women and girls are the world's greatest untapped resource, and investing in them is one of the most powerful forces for international development.''Ambassador Verveer acknowledged the importance of CARE's work in girls' education and access to financial tools for women as significant ways to alleviate poverty.
Legislative Issue Trainings
Following the breakfast plenary, participants met with their lobby groups and began to learn about CARE's legislative priority issues.Maya, the 10-year-old who sold chicken eggs to raise money to attend the conference, sat with a group of advocates from Maine.Among them was another young girl named Kiran.Maya and Kiran met at last year's conference and became fast friends.They both advocated against child marriage and have since become pen pals.This year, excited to be together again, they both decided to focus on education.
''My favorite part [of the conference] is learning about issues and meeting with members of Congress,'' explained Kiran.She said she likes talking to her representative because ''it makes me feel like I'm important.''
Luncheon keynote speaker Melinda Gates, co-chair and trustee of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, was met with a standing ovation when Dr. Gayle introduced her to a packed ballroom. Gates addressed the 1,100 CARE advocates and supporters on the importance of investing in women and girls in developing countries.
"We're not just haggling over a line item in the budget," Gates told the crowd when discussing critical foreign assistance funding. "We're talking about saving millions and millions of lives."
In preparation for the more than 300 planned Hill visits the following day, she urged the advocates to share amazing stories of humanitarian aid and the lifesaving impact it has had in developing countries with their members of Congress.
USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah closed the luncheon session by stressing the importance of sustainable development.''The best way that we can serve our interests in the developing world is to create the conditions where our assistance is no longer necessary,'' explained Dr. Shah.
He praised CARE's achievements and our deep connection to the communities in which we work.Dr. Shah also encouraged CARE's advocates to push their representatives to oppose cuts to the foreign assistance budget.
Our assistance is not just a line in a budget, it is a reflection of who we are as a country,'' said Dr. Shah. He added that significant cuts to foreign aid would ''effectively end six decades of bipartisan tradition of U.S. leadership in global development.''
The Girls Matter break out session was one of the most lively gatherings at the conference. With a room packed to the brim, students and Girl Scouts sat on the floor to hear CARE's Basic and Girls' Education Unit Director Sarah Bouchie, USAID Senior Gender Advisor Caren Grown and Girl Scouts of America Senior Vice President Laurie Westley talk about one of the most fundamental elements for global development: the education of girls.When you put a girl in school ''you tell the entire community that she is worth it, and hopefully while she is there she can help toâ¦ start to change some of the perceptions about what girls should achieve and how girls and boys should be treated'' said Bouchie.
I Am Powerful Dinner
After an inspiring day hearing from leaders in politics, media and global health, attendees gathered back together to hear from former First Lady Laura W. Bush. She was introduced by her two daughters, Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Bush, who had served as panelists earlier in the day. ''A century of progress has shown us that when you educate and empower women, you improve nearly every other aspect of society,'' Mrs. Bush told the crowd.
After Mrs. Bush's keynote, Kathy Betty and Mark Brock, owners of the WNBA team, Atlanta Dream, presented the ''I Am Powerful'' Award to Peninah Nthenya Musyimi. Peninah is founder of Safe Spaces, a nonprofit in Nairobi, Kenya, that uses basketball to empower girls living in the slums. Peninah's can-do spirit was on full display during the awards ceremony, telling the crowd, ''Tough times never last but tough people do.''
Capitol Hill Day
On March 10, 2011 over 700 people flooded Capitol Hill to raise their voices to end poverty across the globe. CARE advocates had more than 350 meetings with members of Congress and their staff, urging them to oppose cuts to the foreign assistance budget, support the upcoming Education for All Act and future legislation impacting economic opportunities for women.
Dylan Yarbrough, a sophomore at Arkansas Tech University was the first to speak at a morning meeting with Senator John Boozman. His first trip to Washington, D.C., and first time on Capitol Hill, Dylan boldly announced that he was here to give a voice to millions of women and girls around the world.He pushed for maintained foreign aid, pointing out that cutting aid meant cutting lifelines for people all over the world.Inspired by CARE's conference and meeting with members of Congress, Dylan plans to start a CARE chapter at his school.
During the afternoon, Massachusetts advocates gathered in the Capitol building to visit with Representative Barney Frank. The team was made up of a group of women who had clearly bonded during their morning meetings on the Hill.While none of them knew each other before the conference, any passer-by would have thought they had known each other for years.After running from office to office all day, their energy was waning, but their enthusiasm was still vibrant and bold.When the congressman pushed them and challenged them on an issue such as foreign aid budget cuts, the advocates politely but firmly challenged him back. When informed that CARE had over 130,000 supporters in Massachusetts, Congressman Frank and his staffers were surprised at the large number.As a very well prepared and very professional group, these women had all of their ducks in a row.They were up to date on what percentage of foreign aid cuts were being presented on the floor; they articulated the benefits of girls' education and details about the upcoming Education for All Act.By the end of the meeting, you could tell that Congressman Frank and his staffers were pleasantly surprised at the competence of the advocates and the clarity of their presentation.