8 March: Can one person change the world?

Saturday two weeks from now, we have initiated a somewhat untraditional event (in Norwegian context, that is..). The International Women’s Day is coming up, and as us girls have a quite good (understatement alert..) life here in the north, we decided that the best way of celebrating it, is to expand our focus and put our solidarity hat on for women living in some of the world’s less women friendly countries, where rape, abuse and violence are tools used to control and surpress, both in times of war and of peace…

More specifically, we will spend a few hours 8 March to raise funds for a unique group of future entrepreneurs!
Women who has systematically been subject to terrible abuse, and in many cases experiencing their local community turning their back on them afterwards.
Women who has been held hostage, raped my militant groups, lost children or their husband along the way, experiences that most of us could never even imagine.
Women who are struggling to secure their families bare minimum survival, at the same time fighting with the trauma of their history and the judgement and tabu issues of their society.

Put yourself in their shoes for a minute; You struggle to make ends meet, you are an outcast in your community, you have very little chance of a better life. Try to imagine what this reality would do to your hopes for life, to your dignity. Then imagine someone suddenly stretching their hand out, offering you support in achieving something different.

Luckily, this actually happpens! All over the world, some extraordinary persons decide to dedicate their lives to change these destinies. All it takes, is actually one single person with the drive and dedication to make a difference.

The social entrepreneur and activist behind Women for Women International is such a person. Zainab Salbi grew up in Iraq, where her father was chosen as the personal pilot of Saddam Hussein. Following a restricted childhood, she escaped to the U.S,only to find herself trapped in an arranged and violent marriage. Again, she had the strength to break out of her misery, and decided to support and empower other women achieving independence and dignity. Starting as a small initiative, Zainab’s organisation has now helped more than 350.000 (!!!!) women in countries as Rwanda, Kongo, Afghanistan, Sudan and Somalia. What they do is quite simple – and extremely effective; through a 1-year sponsorship program, the above mentioned women are educatied in basic rights, job skills, health and leadership. Upon completing the study, they are provided micro-financing enabling them to start their own local business. The program has an impressive success rate, and many of the women actually end up as local employers for other women, changing their own societies from within…. So simple, yet so genious, isn’t it??!!

In 2011 Zainab was selected among “Top 100 Women: Activists & Campaigners” by The Guardian, and she has received prizes from both Tony Blair and Bill Clinton. Newsweek ranked her among “100 Extraordinary Women who Shake the World” (2011), and she is among the World Economic Forum´s Young Global Leaders, where the Norwegian Crown Prince and Princess are strongly involved. She is the living proof that one person can actually change the world… I see her as the grown-up version of the young Norwegian social entrepreneur Anne Louise Hubert, who started a similar type of initiative during a journey to Kenya (Aid in Action).

From our side, we’re trying to contribute to this great and important organisation. Thanks to a great team of volunteers, sponsors and contributors, we have collected 40 art and photography items, that will be put on auction that Saturday. Among the contributors are Grieg Shipping Group, Nordic Shipowners Association, Astrup Fearnley museum of modern art and a great range of artists and photographers who have donated their own works.

The auction guests are welcomed in on a red carpet, and we have put together a really nice and varied 2-hour program that includes an inspirational speach, mingling with prosecco & hot-dogs, and a live performance with the multi-talented composer and pianist Aksel Kolstad (who has amongst other performed in Carnegie Hall, and described by Times Magazines as “the Quentin Tarantino of classical music”).

Not to mention that the participants will receive a specially designed reusable goody bag containing nice treats generously donated by well known brands such as Clarins, Max Factor and Norwegian business magazine Dagens Næringsliv.

We hope this day will inspire all our guests to incorporate sustainable and responsible focus in their companies and organisations, so that we can put action behind the name of the event; The new definition of a business woman!

The organisers behind it is WISTA Norway, YoungShip and High Heels, all representing engaged and higly skilled women from all segments and levels of Norwegian business life.

P.S: Other cities that organise similar celebrations to benefit Women for Women Int., are London, New York, Washington D.C., Chicago, Berlin, Sydney and Paris. The main sponsor globally is Bloomberg Philantrophies globalt, and they have ambassadors as Annie Lennox, Sophie Ellis-Beztor and Lucy Liu. The initiative has never before been brought to Norway.

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