(in case you don't know, Junior League of Las Vegas is a volunteer organization of women dedicated to creating and facilitating projects that address the needs of the community. Some past projects have included Ronald McDonald House and Shade Tree Shelter. Our current focus is health and wellness, particularly as it relates to women and children.)
The event was all very Betty Draper-esque with the politicians mingling with members, although no one was sipping vodka drinks (to my knowledge) and no plumes of cigarette smoke stuck in the ceiling. In the crowd was a representative from the Governor's office, current and past state senators, and various assemblypeople. I also ran into an old work collegue who didn't recognize my married name, but said I looked "beautiful" (::blush::) despite the fact that my suit was a little on the snug side.
Two state senators were honored for their work to help improve the conditions for women and children in the state. One senator played an integral part to help prevent against Fetal Alcohol Syndrome by passing a law requiring bars and restaurants to post signs in the bathrooms regarding the dangers of drinking while pregnant. The other senator was the youngest woman ever to serve in the Nevada legislature and was a part of numerous committees, including chairing the Clean Indoor Air Coalition. Hearing the accomplishments of both women was both inspiring and exciting.
During the speeches, I also thought about the current book on my nightstand: "Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity" by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn. They are a married couple (and recent Pulitzer Prize winners) that have traveled to terribly impoverished nations, looking for ideas to end global poverty, stop sex traffiking, and end honor killings. Amazingly, they found an answer: invest in women.
Not only is it morally imperative, they say, but it's strategically necessary to empower and educate women. Women are naturally forward thinkers; we have to be. We are the ones that raise the kids, and as any mother would attest, planning your day/week/month is essential to just general survival. Women, more so than men, also need to be incredibly inclusive in their thinking, because their decisions immediately impact not only themselves, but also their children (who are more than likely with them for the majority of the day). Women tend to be more empathic than men, and are more likely to offer aid to another. Women who are well-educated and who have an independent income naturally find a voice in the family and in democratic society. They gain the power to speak out and resist the injustice they see around them, or are suffering themselves.
Therefore, by investing in women, you essentially invest in a better world.
I'm not done with the book yet, but the last section is called "Lifting Women Lifts the World." I couldn't agree more. I found this same sentiment echoed in a recent program on NBC called "Harmony." While it's main message was about finding new ways to combat climate change, it had a segment that examined the extreme poverty in some parts of India. And again, answer was the same: invest in women. While men struggle to farm and raise crops, giving a wife and mother a micro loan of $25 allows her to buy supplies to create wares. She sells the wares, is able to buy more supplies, sell more wares, and before you know it, she is feeding her family. The biggest benefit? Not only are the children fed, but they also gain important life lessons by watching their mother's success.
So as I was standing there in that room last night with all of these thoughts swirling in my brain, I couldn't help but look around at all of the intelligent, committed, and passionate women that were there. It made me so proud to think of what we can accomplish as a group, an organization that is directly affecting a community and changing lives for the better. We have the opportunity and resources to do so much, and to make such a difference.
So next time you're mulling over a problem, whether is global or very local, remember this: invest in women. It's worth its weight in gold.
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