They're starting revolutions, opening schools, and fostering a brave new generation. From Detroit to Kabul, these women are making their voices heard.
It launched with the sound of a young girl’s voice, calling a hotline for women forced into marriage, her words spanning across the giant stage at New York’s Lincoln Center. The girl was British, but she’d overheard her parents talking about shipping her off to Pakistan—for a forced marriage. “Put a spoon in your underwear,” we hear a woman tell her. The audience is puzzled. “When you go through airport security,” the woman continues, “the alarm will sound, and you can tell the guard your story.”
It was a rousing start to Newsweek and The Daily Beast’s third annual Women in the World Summit, a gathering that attracted activists, organizers, educators, and politicians from more than a dozen countries—and even managed to send Twitter over capacity by the popularity of its hashtag, #wiw12. Some had traveled far: Hokmina, a provincial council member, from Afghanistan. Leymah Gbowee, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and one of the weekend’s co-hosts, from Liberia. There was Molly Melching, the U.S.-born founder of the Tostan organization, who has lived in Senegal for more nearly 40 years, working to stop female genital mutilation. And, of course, there were the activists here at home: Gloria Steinem, Angelina Jolie, Oprah Winfrey and more.
The list of co-hosts was equally impressive: Gbowee; Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg; fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg; Jane Harman, former congresswoman and current head of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars; Brazilian entrepreneur Nizan Guanaes; Ford Foundation Vice President Maya Harris; Mellody Hobson, president of Ariel Investments; designer and philanthropist Lauren Bush Lauren; publisher Judith Rodin; and actress Meryl Streep, who stirred the crowd with an introduction of Hillary Clinton that involved waving her Oscar in the air.
“This is what you get when you play a world leader,” Streep said, showing off the trophy she won last month for The Iron Lady.
“But this,” Streep continued, gesturing toward Clinton backstage, “is what you get when you are one.”
Clinton walked onto the stage at the Koch Theater—named for a pair of brothers, as Steinem would point out—and the crowd went wild.
Each story, whether about forced marriage abroad or theater and politics at home, was triumphant in its own way and just a taste of the many riveting moments of the past few days. From a lively discussion about the need for female politicians to panels on Burma and Egypt and a dinner conversation with International Monetary Fund head Christine Lagarde, here are just a few of the most compelling moments from the third annual Women in the World Summit.
Leymah Gbowee to U.S. Women: ‘Get Mad!’
In a rollicking talk with Newsweek & The Daily Beast editor-in-chief Tina Brown, Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee said it’s time for American women to stop being polite. “We have to be our own Gandhis, our own kings, our own Mandelas,” she said, referring to the recent uproar over contraception and abortion. “Why are these women not angry and beating men left and right?” Gbowee, the co-winner of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize, is credited—along with fellow Nobel winner Ellen Johnson Sirleaf—with ending her country’s 14-year civil war.
Young Female Activists: ‘The Internet Is Our Tool’
Chelsea Clinton spoke with rising feminist stars about how they’re using social media to empower girls. The answer? Microupdate by microupdate, with a fury so strong that the Wi-Fi inside Koch Theater went down during their talk (presumably from all the social-media chatter about it). “I sometimes talk about naming my kids after social media,” Noorjahan Akbar joked, speaking about the organization she founded in Afghanistan, Young Women for Change. Said Change.org women’s-rights organizer Shelby Knox: “The Internet is how we cut through the noise. It’s how we organize to tell our stories.”
Jaycee Dugard: “I Want to Be Remembered for What I do, Not What Happened to Me”
Jaycee Dugard spent 18 years locked up in a pedophile’s backyard, but it’s not what she wants to be known for—a point she made clear during an awards ceremony hosted by Diane von Furstenberg on Friday night at the United Nations. Amid the celebratory surroundings, Dugard silenced the room when she spoke, saying plainly, “My name is Jaycee Dugard. I want to say that. For a long time, I wasn’t able to say my name, and it feels good.”
Angelina Jolie’s Ode to Dr. Hawa Abdi
In the final on-stage event on Friday night, Angelina Jolie spoke about a Somali obstetrician named Dr. Hawa Abdi—one of the first gynecologists in Somalia—whose medical encampment provides food and aid to nearly 100,000 women and children, many of them refugees in their own country. Called “equal parts Mother Teresa and Rambo” by Glamour magazine, Abdi has worked alongside her two daughters for nearly three decades, growing the camp from a one-room clinic into the village it is today—despite ongoing struggles with local militants in the region. Abdi’s story, Jolie told a captivated crowd, “illuminates the nightmare of tens of millions around the world—the internally displaced and the ones homeless within their homelands.”
Christine Lagarde: If Only Lehman Brothers Had Been Lehman Sisters
Sparring amicably during a dinner conversation with historian and Newsweek columnist Niall Ferguson, International Monetary Fund head Christine Lagarde drove this point home: “If Lehman Brothers had been a bit more Lehman Sisters ... we would not have had the degree of tragedy that we had as a result of what happened.” She’s not the first woman (or man) to make the point—but she noted that “the degree of risk taking among women is significantly lower” than among men. “I think there is something to be said about women being good crisis managers,” she added.
Hokmina on the Status of Afghan Women
In a land known as the “most dangerous country for women,” Afghan provincial council member Bibi Hokmina chooses pants and a turban over the burqas worn by most Afghan women—a look she’s worn since childhood, when she was tasked with protecting her family during the Soviet war. In a panel devoted to the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, moderator Christiane Amanpour asked Hokmina what would become of Afghan women and girls. “It’s time for us to stand up on our own two feet, to better our lives by ourselves,” Hokmina said.
Gloria Steinem to Men: Get Used to Women in Power
“Female authority is still associated with childhood,” Steinem, the founder of Ms. magazine, said on a panel hosted by the ultimate female power icon of the moment, Facebook’s Sandberg. It was a quote that immediately went viral online. “The last time a lot of powerful guys saw a powerful woman, they were eight,” Steinem continued, “and they feel regressed to childhood by a powerful woman in a way that they don’t feel with a man.”
Kah Walla: Why We Need More Female Politicians
The president of the People’s Party of Cameroon was unforgiving when it came to strides made by women in politics—both in Africa and elsewhere—in a panel about women world leaders. “We don’t have critical mass,” she told moderator Andrea Mitchell. “We need to be Sweden, Norway, Denmark needs to be the norm. We cannot accept that having 19 percent of women in Congress is OK. And I think as women we need to understand: it is in the politics. It’s politics that defines the economy, it’s politics that defines social norms, and until we get political power, we are not going to be able to make giant strides.” Her solution? “Every woman in here needs to be involved in getting a woman elected.”
Madeleine Albright in Conversation with Charlie Rose
The former Madam Secretary had the audience in virtual hysterics in her Friday-night kickoff conversation with Charlie Rose. Of people who say there aren’t enough qualified women: “That’s one of the most bullshit things I’ve heard,” Albright quipped. Of women who don’t help one another: “There’s a special place in hell for them.” And on the question of why there aren’t more women in power: “Men!”
In Senegal, Women’s Rights Are Human Rights
After decades of working to end the brutal tradition of female genital cutting in Senegal, human-rights activist Molly Melching realized that men are key to affecting real change in the region. Imam Demba Diawara, who is a village chief in Senegal, proved critical. Cutting, he said, in a panel moderated by Sheryl WuDunn, and with Melching acting as a translator, was an ancient tradition that his ancestors practiced. “We never questioned it,” he said. “We just followed it. As the head of a family who I love, every one of them had gone through this practice. Now it is very painful for me to acknowledge that this was the case.”
Meryl Streep on Hillary Clinton
Streep introduced the secretary of state by noting a shared history between the two women. Both were raised in middle-class families by bighearted mothers. Both went to public schools and onto prestigious all-women colleges. Both went to Yale. But while Streep was a cheerleader, Clinton was the president of the student government, Streep joked. “And there, the two paths in the woods diverged.” Streep went on to deliver a passionate tribute to the secretary of state, noting that it’s “not a simple job to be a role model.” “But while we are busy relating to her, judging her, assessing her hair, her jackets, supporting her, worrying if she’s getting enough sleep,” Streep continued, “she’s just been busy working. Doing it. Making those words—‘Women’s rights are human rights’—into something every leader in every country now knows are a lynchpin of American policy.”
Hillary Clinton: Let’s Shape Our ‘Destinies’
The introduction by Meryl Streep was hard to top, but Secretary of State Hillary Clinton—surrounded by a swarm of Secret Service backstage—delivered an address that, at least one woman commented on Twitter, “was more emotional in person than I could have imagined.” At times lighthearted— “What do you think of my jacket?” she joked—and at times more serious, Clinton called for the women in the crowd to be as “fearless … committed … and audacious” as the leaders and activists who’d spoken over the course of three days. “What does it mean to be a woman in the world?” Clinton asked. “It means never giving up: on yourself, your potential, your future. It means getting up, working hard, and putting a country or a community on your back.”
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