(Photo credit 10x10 Act: Suma from Nepal, was sold into indentured servitude by her family)
The first day of the Women in the World Summit was absolutely amazing.
The day opened up with a haunting song by Suma from Nepal, a girl sold into indentured servitude by her family. Her story has been shared by 10x10, an organization which made a feature film profiling 10 girls in 10 countries, all with the message that educating girls in developing nations will change the world.
The speakers ranged from world renowned superstars like Angelina Jolie to the Congo genocide survivor Sandra Uwiringiyimana.
Some of the most fascinating and memorable points were from Madeline Albright and Christine Lagarde.
Both talked about the role of women in leadership and commented on the unique qualities women possess that make them great leaders.
These qualities include being more likely to negotiate, less likely to make rash decisions, and being able to handle crises better.
Sandra Uwiringiyimana spoke about her ordeal of being a refugee because of genocide. She also spoke about the small things that everyone can and should do to see those who are “invisible.”
According to Sandra, there are many people like her who have experienced terrible ordeals and are currently living in America un-noticed.
I also listened to a panel discussion on forced marriage.
This was particularly interesting because the panel did not talk about women in developing countries, but rather focused on the issue related to women in the UK.
Sometimes women in England, usually of Middle Eastern descent, are taken to the Middle East.
They are told the trip is a vacation, but while there they are forced to marry a man selected by her parents or a family member upon arrival. Families bring men to England as future husbands as well.
The panelists included Chaz Akoshile, the Joint Head of the Forced Marriage Unit in the UK, and Jasvinder Sanghera, who escaped a forced marriage and founded Karma Nirvana, where she now serves as CEO.
This panel made sure to point out that when these women go against their family’s wishes to marry, they are disowned for life because they have diminished their families’ “honor.”
This panel also gave hope that something can be done for these girls. A hotline has been established in the UK to help girls who are found in these situations.
One creative suggestion for a woman to get help without confronting the family directly is to put a spoon in her underwear so that the alarms on the metal detector go off at the airport. This gives the girl the opportunity to talk to police and inform them of her situation.
Such solutions can seem questionable at first, but they actually make a difference to girls who find themselves in these very bad situations. This just goes to show that when dealing with such pressing issues, one needs to think outside the box for effective solutions.
The point was also made during this discussion that this issue of forced marriage is not unique to developing countries, but also the United States and other countries as well.
At the conclusion of the night’s events, the atmosphere was one of empowerment and hope. The speakers tonight proved that we, as women, can not only make a philanthropic difference but we can also be political powerhouses.
Read my first Women in the World entry.