International Women’s Day reminds us of the importance of celebrating the accomplishments of women everywhere. Truth be told, other than enjoying the sunshine-y yellow of mimosa flowers, this was a day that I did not pay significant attention to in years past. But then I started to realize that the ability to use our voices by becoming advocates, the ability to foster and promote self sufficiency and sustainable futures for others through advocacy, especially children and women around the world….that was what International Women’s Day is all about.
More importantly, advocacy took on a whole new meaning for me over this last year as I became more involved with Shot@Life and One Moms. One thing is me using my voice here, to share why programs that support giving children, regardless of where they were born, a shot at life….that is easy and is one of those no brainer forms of advocacy. Going to Capitol Hill to speak with members of Congress about why they should support global health programs, despite periods of fiscal crisis is of course another form of advocacy that I realized I am passionate about. But the more I thought about it, there was another piece to the advocacy puzzle that I had been missing. A piece that is bigger than me. A piece that empowers future advocates…our children…and specifically…our daughters, to rise to the microphone in their own ways.
What is Advocacy?
An advocate, by definition is someone who publicly supports or recommends a particular cause or policy. During the Shot@Life Champion Summit we learned and discussed the many ways that advocacy can happen, and the profound impact it can have.
During the summit we also had the opportunity to preview a movie, The Revolutionary Optimists, that featured a group of young advocates who had been empowered to be the agents of change in their own community. As the weekend progressed and then I came home to think about my own next steps, it became very clear to me that one of my goals was to do more than support programs that provide life-saving vaccines to children in developing countries, saving 2.5 million children from preventable diseases each year. My goal is to foster a sense of voice and to empower my daughter, and other young girls, to become advocates. Not only is a young girl advocating for her own global generation a powerful thing, but the notion of empowering tween girls that their voice matters at such a young age, can only help us as these young girls become women. Not just for the plight of women, but for the self confidence, pride, and empowerment that these girls will be able to draw on as their foundation for facing life.
How do we empower young advocates?
The first step in empowering our daughters to believe in the power of advocacy is to model it ourselves. They need to see us, their moms and parents, doing more than just talking the talk. Taking our daughters to see movies like the Revolutionary Optimists, or Girl Rising, and talking….talking about why these issues are important, why their matter to us is one way to make the issues concrete and personal.
Making these issues relevant to young children, and especially tween girls is crucial to helping them make sense of it for themselves. One small thing that I did to engage my daughter- was to buy her a Shot@Life necklace. Although some may question how giving a girl a piece of jewelry could really make a difference, this one token is now something that my daughter insists on wearing every day. Not only does she wear it, but she talks about it. To her piano teacher, to her friends…to anyone that will listen, about how her mom went to Capitol Hill so that children far away can be saved by life saving vaccines.
A third way to engage our daughters and empower young advocates, is to meet them where they are….and like it or not, many of our children like video games. Nicolas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, co-authors of Half the Sky, have launched a new game on Facebook, produced by Games For Change: Half the Sky Movement. Although my daughter is too young for Facebook, she is not too young to sit with me to play the game and learn about these global health issues as she plays. The game raises awareness & funds to empower women & girls across the world by taking players on a global journey which begins in India, and moves on to Kenya, Vietnam, and Afghanistan, ending in the U.S. Players meet different characters and take action in a very simple way by unlocking funds from the game’s sponsors to make direct impact.
A fourth way to empower young advocates for Shot@Life, or any cause, is to engage them on on a plan of how to take action. Many children will punt to activities that they have seen done before, like penny drives or other fundraising activities. But the more that the issues and the possibilities are discussed, the more innovative and personal the ideas will become. My daughter for instance, wants to come to Capitol Hill with me…not to sit on an office chair and play on my phone while I am speaking, but to actually speak herself. We have been talking about other ways to be involved, like writing letters and teaching her classmates and are continuing to brainstorm…because that is what advocacy is. What she does not know is that she will be embarking on a trip to Disney thanks to my being invited to the Disney Social Media Moms conference, a trip that I would like to be the catalyst for her taking action, because what better venue could there be as a back drop and to talk about the milestones that children everywhere should have an opportunity to experience?
Advocacy does not have to be something that seems daunting…nor does it need to be something that only a select group of people “do.” By sharing our voices, educating each other, and empowering one another…we are all advocates. Wouldn’t it be AMAZING if our daughters could grow up knowing that their voice, their passions, and their commitment to causes that they believe in..mattered?
Have you joined Shot@Life? There are so many ways to be involved….Add your voice to find out more. Advocacy happens when people believe their voice matters. Imagine what would be possible if we all believed, and could empower young advocates everywhere to give children everywhere a Shot@Life.