Christy Diary: TEDWomen - DAY 2
So despite Arianna Huffington's advice to get some sleep, I went back to my hotel last night to blog about the day. And after a very active sleep, I headed over to TEDWomen this morning just in time to catch the "Duets" section of today's conference. Still frenetic, still amazing. We covered everything from the wild kingdom to an 18 year old who started an NGO at the age of 15 to some gorgeous music...amazing.
So here are some snippets from the day:
Beverly and Dereck Joubert are National Geographic filmmakers. They showed film clips of their animal conservation work and spoke about their belief that conservation is about celebration and respect. They had the entire audience riveted with footage of animals they followed for years on end....and cheering on an elephant in its struggle to find strength against all odds.
Next, we heard from a Mother-daughter team of Doctors from Somalia. Deqo, the daughter talked about how she had wanted to be a reporter but after living through a civil war she and her sister were each inspired to follow in their mother's footsteps. They together serve 400 patients a day between 5 doctors, with a particular emphasis on women and children. Given that so many of the maternal mortality statistics I follow take place in conflict settings, it's so refreshing to hear stories of health care being delivered in places like Somalia. And with such grace...
The very pregnant filmmaker, Penelope Jagessar Chaffer and amphibian scientist Tyrone Hayes gave one of the more provoking talks today. Tyrone talked about his research findings that demonstrate how Afrazine, which is found in our water sources, is causing havoc in the bodies of frogs - confusing male and female hormones and genitalia. Penelope spoke about "internal environmentalism," and the "dumping down" effect of hosting our fetuses given all the toxicity we consume. She stressed that since the government is not doing this in the US, we parents must become the regulators for our children.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton surprised the crowd by stopping in to speak about her lifelong work on behalf of girls and women. Fighting for these rights is not only important because it's fair and the right thing to do, but it’s also a security issue. When you give a woman her rights, her entire community is stable. She mentioned the forthcoming QDDR (in DC-speak that's a report about how development is working within the US government) and stressed that she believes (and is working hard to ensure) that we put diplomacy and development on par with defense.
We then heard the amazing and powerful voices in song of Toshi Reagon and her mother, Bernice Johnson Reagon. Wow!
But it wasn't the only duet that amazed me. We got to hear from a young married couple who have broken all the rules by not only working together but working to take what they've learned about parenting and demystify the experience for other parents as well. The founders of Babble, Alisa Volkman and Rufus Griscom, were real, funny, and brave in their talk about the "taboo" topics of parenthood. These parents of three boys started this website with over 4 million subscribers to open the dialogue amongst parents to address and demystify the taboos of parenting, which they said has even more taboos than sex. I spoke with Alisa and Rufus in the AOL studio after they presented.
Sheika Al-Mayassa got beamed in from Qatar to speak about her efforts to promote the arts and artists in the Middle East. Between 60-70 % of people living in the Middle East are under the age of 30, and yet the youth of this part of the world is different than we are led to believe. Sheika spoke about her generation's efforts to change culture from within while reconnecting to tradition. She wants to break the walls around ignorance in the east AND the west.
Cultural critic Naomi Klein spoke about the importance of precaution when addressing the issue of climate change. Naomi questioned the reasoning behind decisions made by cost analysis. Why do we wait until the latest possible moment to act? "We should be thinking about the possibility of failure at all times if we are to address societal wrecklessness."
We heard from Jody Williams, a recent Nobel Peace prizewinner for her work to ban landmines, who said that we need to redefine what makes us feel secure in this world and that we need people to get up and take ACTION to get peace. She also challenged us to redefine "peace"- it's not just a dove and rainbow and the singing of Kumbayah, it's individual efforts, it's hard work but it makes an enormous difference.
Jacqueline Novogratz gave an inspiring talk encouraging living a life of immersion and by that she means that you need to fully immerse yourself in the change you're trying to lead. These are not easy lives to lead but if more people took the resources they had and converted them into positive change, well then, we'd be living in a different world. The beautiful Palestinian poet Suheir Hammad shared a poem that ended with this line, "if you must, fear the unexploded."
Shirin Neshat is an Iranian artist living in exile who believes that every artist is political. She says, "we are the reporters of our people. The communicators to the people outside of our culture." She added that, "by studying women you can learn about the ideology of a culture."
There was an emotional reconciliation story told by two 9/11 mothers who have come together as "others" to share their stories together. One of them-- Phyllis Rodriguez--lost her son in the World Trade Center and the other-- Aicha El-Wafi-- is the mother of Zacarias Moussaoui. They held hands and shed some tears as they told their story of coming together to find solace. They showed incredible compassion for the other, two mothers who lost their sons in a tragedy.
This was the perfect precursor to Joan Halifax's talk about compassion, which she argues does not drain but enlivens us. It also enhances our immune system. So, why then are we not training our healthcare providers and our children compassion?
Social entrepreneur, Sejal Hathi then spoke about her anorexia diagnosis that made her realize she had to own her life and has resulted in the mobilization efforts of 30,000 young women to do the same. She's only 18 and she's already launched an effort that is providing one-on-one mentorship to empower girls and women by healing fear and growing tolerance all over the world.
Madeleine Albright was the first Secretary of State of this country who shared a question asked by her 7 year old granddaughter about why it was such a big deal that her Grandma Maddie had been a secretary of state since in her mind, mostly girls held that job. What a beautiful thing that our next generation of girls don't HAVE to think it's unusual to hold such a job. She also challenged what other speakers had recommended by saying that "the world would not be a completely better place if run by women and if we think that than surely you have forgotten high school." She did add that a critical mass of women is key for foreign policy.
My dear friend Donna Karan spoke with Pat Mitchell about her many experiences of births and deaths and how they shaped the woman she is today. This is a woman who has an enormous heart and compassion. Her openness and creativity inspire women each and every day.
Sally Osberg from the Skoll Foundation spoke about waking beauty. She references some of our early social entrepreneurs such as Jane Addams, Florence Nightingale and Eleanor Roosevelt and closed with the sentiment I have often used myself - that it's not what you do, it’s how you do it.
Global Health and HIV/AIDs activist Stephen Lewis talked about the difficulty in getting the UN to launch UN Women, the first ever women focused agency for women that will launch in January 2011 and be head by former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, a Socialist, feminist doctor!
Caroline Casey started her talk asking the question, who do you want to be when you were 17? She then told her incredible journey as a blind woman who passed for normal for as long as she could with her parents encouragement. But when she could no longer pretend, she finally confronted herself and returned to her dream of becoming Mogli from the Jungle Book. She then found herself to cross over 1,000 kms of India on the back of an elephant, which has led to elephant conservation as well as contributed to 6,000 cataract surgeries. "When you find the power of yourself anything is possible."
The final speaker was the woman who I thought of emulating when I set out to make NO WOMAN, NO CRY. In an attempt to connect herself to her own body, Eve Ensler connected herself to countless women through a certain common anatomy. But her journey did not stop there because she had learned the "huge responsibility that comes with connection." Now, Eve Ensler has taken on the pain of mother earth as she has suffered the recent death of her own mother and her own cancer, which she sees as a metaphor too because there is "cancer" everywhere.
This was a powerful and emotional end to an incredibly diverse and inspirational collective consciousness that represented all at TEDWomen. And what an incredible collective it was to behold. To all who participated and those who shared, thank you.
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