liberia-president-ellen-johnson-sirleaf-nadine-b-hack1After saying goodbye to Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who I’ve known since we worked together in the 1980s, I reflected. All of us who participated in this historic Colloquium reconnected with friends we’d known from our work over the decades on behalf of gender equity and a more just world. We made new relationships with wonderful advocates from the public, private and civil society sectors of many countries. We had intensely in-depth discussions about where we’ve been, where we now are and where we are determined to be with the status of women in our respective nations, regions and the world. We had innumerable poignant insights about opportunities and challenges we each face: often the same ones, sometimes quite unique to specific places. We exchanged information about successes built on best practices and hard lessons learned through devastating set-backs with the clear intention that we could improve the effectiveness of each other’s efforts.

The Colloquium proceedings followed thematic areas of focus, which will continue to be analyzed and developed at meetings throughout the world. Some meetings already are planned and new initiatives will grow out of this gathering. You can learn more about the themes at the Colloquium . Some of the many organizations that will continue to pursue these efforts on a global scale include Realizing Rights, the Council of World Women Leaders, the Institute for Inclusive Security.  Others that support women’s initiatives globally include the United Nations Fund for Women UNIFEM, the Global Fund for Women, , the Women’s Funding Network, Women Moving Millions, and Women for Women International. For a more comprehensive listing of women’s organizations – global, national and local – see the excellent resources Wellesley Centers for Women and University Wisconsin Women’s Studies. The good news is that there is a plethora of activity, so these links are just the start: feel free to add your comments to this blog about other excellent sites to visit to learn more.

MY PERSONAL THOUGHTS AND HOPES

Of my many reflections following participation in this gathering, two particularly stand out for me. First, people throughout the world are engaged in amazingly exciting efforts to advance gender equity. But, I strongly believe we must develop and sustain mechanisms to keep these pockets of activity linked. For us truly to leverage and take to scale the most strategic benefits of the remarkable work being done in different places, we have to collaborate in creative ways that will keep the momentum moving forward in between these inspirational gatherings. The whole always is greater than the sum of the parts and we always have greater strength in coalition. I left the Colloquium determined to play a proactive role in being a bridge-builder and connector.

Second, while we evaluated, debated and came up with recommendations about incredibly substantive issues, for me one element of the Colloquium was the most important. We were there as a witness to, and affirmation of, the extraordinary courage, resilience and fortitude of our Liberian sisters – and brothers – who, in a post-conflict society, working against all odds are making awesome strides that would humble anyone. They not only pulled off hosting a grand international gathering in a nation that still has severe infrastructure limitations, they taught us by example how bringing women into senior leaderships in every aspect of developing their country has made them a model we all can learn from and emulate. To them, I simply bow in awe, respect and gratitude. And I pledge my continued solidarity.

EXPERIENCE THE POWER THROUGH WORDS & IMAGES

I encourage you to read – or, at least, look at the photographs – in the postings below to get a fuller flavor of the transformative experience in Monrovia. On my final day I accompanied Lynn Sherr and Megan Thompson as they made site visits and conducted interviews for a four-part series about Liberia they are producing for World Focus, a nightly international news program produced by the PBS networks WLIW and WNET in New York with the aim to provide in-depth global news to American viewers. I cannot tell you the details but I was deeply moved by each place we visited and each person with whom we spoke. Their pieces will be broadcast in April, so check out your local PBS stations and watch this fantastic series. Below is one picture I took of Lynn and Megan at work and one they took of me with some children at one of our sites. The rest you’ll have to wait to see on World Focus!

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{ 7 comments… add one }

  • Alice Dear March 16, 2009, 9:19 am

    Nadine,

    Congratulations on initiating your blog. I still haven’t done so but perhaps you wll inspire me.

    I am now in Abidjan, but still reflecting on and talking about the high quality of the international colloquium that we attended in Monrovia. It was truly world-class and quite a feat to accomplish in a post-conflict country. Liberia as the venue provided challenges that I could not have imagined would be surmounted with such style and creativity. Kudos to the Liberian women. I loved that the 2-day high culminated with a love-fest — a concert for President Ellen featuring powerful female singers from Liberia, Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Cameroon and South Africa who rocked the stadium and had President Ellen on her feet, too. Talking about love you could touch and feel…! This was really special and we were so privileged to be a part of such a memorable commemoration of International Women’s Day.

    Representing Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority at the Colloquium provided me a wonderful opportunity to return to Liberia after more than a 20-year absence and to follow-up on AKA’s commitment to build 10 markets in partnership with The Sirleaf Market Women’s Fund and in support of our soror, President Ellen..

    I’m now in Abidjan taking care of some personal business and will return to New York next week. See you soon and I hope you keep blogging. Maybe my comment on your blog will help to move me forward in the IT world, too.

    Warm regards,

    Reply
  • Tami Hultman March 17, 2009, 3:23 pm

    Your wonderful, wonderful blog made me feel (almost) that I was at the Colloquium.

    Reply
  • Abby Disney March 19, 2009, 10:50 pm

    Nadine you are right that it was an incredible few days, and for me it was a thrilling confirmation of something I have long suspected: that the women of Africa are living on the cutting edge of feminism and it is they who will lead us into a new and more energetic period of our amazing global movement. Showing Pray the Devil Back to Hell in that stadium has been a dream of mine since the day we wrapped the shoot in Monrovia. It seemed important to honor these women with red carpets and yells and screams and cheers–it is like setting the world right side up again after all the decades of yelling and cheering instead for people like Paris Hilton and Britney Spears. At last! We are rooting for the people who most deserve our respect and honoring!! Thanks for coming to the colloquium and adding these great blog posts to help us remember the experience by.
    Abby Disney

    Reply
  • Ariel Dorfman March 20, 2009, 1:06 pm

    Thanks yet again, Nadine. Your description of the Liberia event is as heartwarming as your memories of our original Kennedy Center launch…..
    Take care,
    Ariel

    Reply
  • Elizabeth LoNigro March 21, 2009, 1:23 pm

    Nadine – Thank you so much for starting this! What wonderful descriptions of the conference, the attendees, and the feelings evoked from your experience. I look forward to reading more. Keep at it!

    Sending lots of love,
    Elizabeth

    Reply
  • Eric Freeman March 23, 2009, 2:31 pm

    Nadine, I can not thank you and all the other brave, hardworking, thoughtful women of the world enough. Justing deciding to leave the comfort of your homes and travel to Liberia following years of wars (which ended approx 3 years ago), choas and destructions was a courageous move. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was God sent for Liberia. She is doing such a good job. I hope and pray that the success of the conference proofs to other troubled countries around the world that there is hope. Given the chance, women can do alot for mankind. We need more female presidents for Africa. Thank you so much.

    Reply
  • Nadine Hack May 20, 2009, 12:53 pm

    For those of you who are interested in learning more about Liberia, check out El Oso’s blog. I’m now blogging about the summer semester course I created for and teach annually at NYU’s Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, Development Strategies for Capacity Building.

    Reply

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