Vital Voices at Women in the World: Stories and Solutions

We were so proud to partner with the incredible Tina Brown and The Daily Beast on the second annual Women in the World: Stories and Solutions summit in New York. Check out the packed agenda for the three-day gathering, held at the Hudson Theater on March 10-12.


March 10

On the opening night of the summit, we heard from World Bank Managing Director Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and others on their female heroes. Vital Voices Board member, designer Diane von Furstenberg, spoke about Global Ledership Network member and 2010 honoree Rebecca Lolosoli, "she is fearless. She is my hero."

Mayor Michael Bloomberg offered welcoming remarks, and we were wowed by Oscar-nominated actress Shohreh Aghdashloo's reading of testimonies from women protesters in Egypt's January revolution. Charlie Rose then interviewed 2010 Global Trailblazer, Melinda French Gates of the Gates Foundation. At the opening dinner, Editor in Chief of Newsweek and The Daily Beast, Tina Brown, interviewed former President Bill Clinton. Watch a clip from the interview.


March 11

On the second day of the summit, honor crimes, acid attacks and human trafficking were among the central themes. Actress and advocate Ashley Judd spoke poignantly about the crime of human trafficking in the United States. She was joined by Malika Saar of The Rebecca Project on a panel; Saar explained why the phenomenon of human trafficking and slavery is spreading so rapidly as one of the most lucrative illegal industries: "we are seeing girls sold instead of drugs because girls are seen as reusable."

Author and Editor Sir Harold Evans moderated a panel with two Global Leadership Network members, Mexican journalist Lydia Cacho and Congolese radio journalist Chouchou Namegabe. Both women described the tremendous risk they take in dangerous environments to publicize corruption and violence against women.

Vital Voices President and CEO, Alyse Nelson, introduced a panel on expanding small local enterprises to medium-sized, sustainable businesses. In her remarks, Alyse noted that the world is waking up to a new reality: "Women don't need the world's help - the world needs women's help." Vital Voices Global Leadership Network members Phelicia Dell and Rebecca Lolosoli, entrepreneurs from Haiti and Kenya, respectively, then joined our Board member Diane von Furstenberg on the panel. Diane spoke about her relationships with both women, saying of her involvement "Once you start helping, you're committed. You're family." Rebecca's necklaces have been featured in DVF stores and on the runway, and Phelicia won the DVF Handbag Competition.

Phelicia and Rebecca's products were featured for sale in the Women and the World Boutique, set up beautifully by our Entrepreneurs in Handcrafts team. We're so excited that all products were sold by the end of the summit. Congratulations to Rebecca and Phelicia!

Discussions on women's role in China, the use of technology for development, and women's workplace struggle to move from middle management to senior level positions held our attention in afternoon sessions. Cherie Blair of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women made the case for advancing women to top positions, "diversity leads to creativity." Ebay CEO John Donahoe agreed, "if you don't have diversity, you have less competition."

Before heading to the United Nations for the second annual DVF Awards, we heard from Somalian heroine, Dr. Hawa Abdi, who founded a health clinic to serve more than 90,000 internally displaced people in her home country. You can support Dr. Abdi and her team by making a donation today. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton closed the second day of the summit with an appeal for the global recognition of women's rights: "Respect for women and girls is not a Western value, it is a universal principle."

We were so proud to join Board member Diane von Furstenberg at the second annual DVF Awards, where Global Leadership Network members Kakenya Ntaiya of Kenya and Sohini Chakraborty of India were recognized for their work. Each woman received a $50,000 grant to further her work. Sohini and Kakenya joined fellow honorees Taryn Davis, Elizabeth Smart, and Secretary Clinton, who was presented a DVF Award by her daughter, Chelsea. In her closing remarks, Diane thanked all for a beautiful and inspiring night, adding, "tonight, we are all proud to be women!"


March 12

Opening the final day of the summit, Vital Voices President and CEO, Alyse Nelson, was interviewed by author Gayle Tzemach Lemmon on her recent trip to Burma, where she met with Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and pro-democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi. Alyse said of the icon for peace: "This is a woman who really believes it's not about her. She sees herself as a woman who has a job to do...When you're in her presence, you have no fear. You feel as though it's possible." Watch a clip from the interview.

Journalist Barbara Walters interviewed former President of Chile and current Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women, Michelle Bachelet on the first 100 days of the new agency for women. Bachelet said of UN Women and the work ahead: "We need to be ambitious. We need to be audacious." Watch a clip from the interview.

After a moving presentation on stories from Congo from Women for Women International's Zainab Salbi, we heard a facinating debate on multiculturalism and the new French ban on the niqab. Grandmother of Egyptian feminism, Dr. Nawal El Saadawi, spoke powerfully about the impact of the revolution on her country. Watch a clip from the interview.

The final few panels of an incredible event shifted our focus to women in the media and how young girls are influenced by the images and messages that surround them in modern times. Panelists agreed that leadership is critical for girls at an early age. In a moving final presentation, young Cambodian Sokha Chen performed a traditional dance, a tribute to tourists turned philanthropists Bill and Laura Smith, who started the NGO, A New Day Cambodia, after being stunned by what they saw at the trash dumps in Cambodia, where hundreds of children work each day. Watch a clip from Sokha's performance.

In her farewell remarks, Tina Brown said of the summit: "We have seen tangible outcomes already. More than $100,000 has been raised for various organizations...the Vital Voices Boutique has sold out."

We were so honored to partner, once again, on this remarkable summit. Congratulations to Tina Brown and all at The Daily Beast on a tremendous event!