Wednesday, December 10, 2008


December 9, 2008

A couple of stories came up, and observations, that I was not able to fit in along the way so I thought I would share them now.

At the WBF training, a lawyer who was giving information on the legalities of starting up a business, opened his talks with a story about his sister. He and his sister were in the same class in school. They were both good students but his sister always was a bit ahead of him. About the age of 12, both of them had to start doing a lot more work at home. His sister had to help with the other children, the dishes, the cleaning and the cooking. He had to help herd the cows.

When you herd the cows, you can take a book with you and read, and do some homework. You can not have a book in your hand and bathe a child, or cook the rice, or do the dishes. Consequently, when they completed school, he was at the A level and she was at C-. He said this was entirely because of the difference—and intensity—of their work at home. It was a very telling illustration of how girls are so often side-tracked by the “girl” duties at home.

Two years ago when I came to Kenya my friend Eva gave me a Kenyan name—Njoki, which means “one who comes back.” This has been a great source of pride and amusement for both the Kenyans and myself. I found the same reactions—pride and amusement—when I was in Kenya in August of 2007, and when I met officials at the Kenyan Embassy in Washington D.C. in May 2008.

However, this trip I found a somewhat different reaction. At least five times during the week after I introduced myself as Njoki, I had the person ask me, “Are you a Kikuyu?”

The post-election violence the end of last year and early this year was predominantly between the Kikuyus and Luos. Both were represented by a leader in the close election. Tensions were high and erupted into unspeakable acts of violence for 1-2 months in some areas.

It’s pretty obvious that I am not a Kikuyu. Yet some people were seemed so taken aback by my name. When I would laugh and say, “No,” they would ask if a Kikuyu gave me the name. I would just respond, “A friend that lives here gave me the name because she knows I love Kenya and I always come back!”

I questioned the last person who said it to me, a young gentleman who works for KLM at the airport. I said to him, “I was never asked this on my trips before the election, but now since the violence, I am have been asked at least five times on this trip. Isn’t that sad?” And he replied—talking about himself as much as the others, “This is why we as Kenyans do not move forward. We are stuck in the past instead of looking at the future. Yes, I should not have asked that.” He called me Njoki for the rest of our transaction—and did not charge me for my overweight luggage!

The first time it came up was from one of the girls we were training. When I said my Kenyan name is Njoki, she took a step back and asked if I was Kikuyu. When I said no, she asked if a Kikuyu person gave me that name. Then she went to the other side of the room and sat alone. She was clearly troubled. I alerted the other trainers about our interaction—her concern that I had a Kikuyu name.

The Kenyan adults in the training were surprised. Were the young people, who grew up side by side with people from different tribes, different villages, different backgrounds, starting to soak in some of the prejudices of the adults?

This young woman became one of the most engaged trainees and definitely one of the best communicators. The last day, as our three vans converged at a meeting point to go to the corporate launch, she jumped out of her van and came to sit in the van by me. I decided to light-heartedly tease her—that I knew she did not like me at first because of my Kikuyu name. She tried to shrug it off, but I wouldn’t let her. I said to her, “I knew it bothered you and I am so proud of you now for overcoming it.” She grinned and nodded her head.

Raychelle, who handled the logistics for our training, had seen that interaction during the informal introductions. She said she was pleasantly surprised that I picked up on the girl’s comment and body language so quickly. “I knew from that point that the training would go well and the girls were in good hands,” she said.

Yes, Njoki is appropriate. I was going back to Kenya in March for the KAWBO conference, which has now been moved back to May. I had already lined some other things up for March, so I’m thinking—maybe I need to go in both March and May….

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


The launch on December 5, 2008
It was the corporate launch of the Partnership for an HIV FREE GENERATION initiative in Kenya. ( The day started with the Roundtable—what we have been preparing for all week. The eight girls mentioned above, plus two more that joined us the last day, had 2-3 minutes to tell their story. Those in attendance were the U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Michael Ranneberger, Buck Buckingham, head of PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief), Ian Kirumba, head of the HIV Free Generation initiative in Kenya, and representatives of other corporate partners (such as Warner Bros. and Coca-Cola) and other NGOs.

The girls were so excited ahead of time and their energy was quite high. I could tell they were nervous, but also positively excited. We were there at least an hour before they had to speak, so we had time to kill. We kept them busy talking, laughing, taking pictures…anything but obsessing about their presentations.

They were amazing. Just amazing. The adrenaline of the day, the event, hit them and it was a positive influence. They talked loudly (on the first day of training you could barely hear half of them speak, they were so soft…), slowly, clearly, concisely and with conviction. Everything we could have hoped for and more. The question and answer period with the Ambassador was illuminating. His questions were targeted and so were the girls’ answers. And they were eager to respond to his questions—with multiple girls raising their hands to answer.

Then we went outside for the big ceremony with hundreds of people and dignitaries in attendance. The Ambassador spent the first part of his speech talking about the girls, how he was so impressed, how much he had learned, and how he could never pass on the message of the importance of an HIV Free Generation as well as the girls. They were sitting in the front row and deservedly beaming from the praise.

(We were told later by one of the NGO representatives that Ambassador Ranneberger does not get much opportunity for this type of one-on-one meetings with the Kenyan people and he does not easily give praise—so his remarks were especially sincere).

Our two 12-year-olds, Cynthia and Annie (who became super close friends during the training), spoke from the podium. They each added even more to their presentations. Instead of freezing in front of the big crowd, they responded to their task and WOW-ed everyone. Cynthia even said, “As a leader, if you take the elevator up, you have to send it back down so other people can take the elevator up, too.” That was a quote that Eva used during training which comes from the NBA star Dikembe Motumbo, who is originally from the DRC.

It shows that these girls were a sponge. Eager to be given a chance, the opportunity to not only lead—they were already leaders before they came to the training—but to learn how
to spread the word and affect more and more girls in their communities. It’s what “The Girl Effect” program from the Nike Foundation is all about—if you change a girl’s life, you change the family’s life, and the community’s life—and then the world. You make history.

The event was held at the AmericaShare/Micato Safaris youth center in Mukurukwa Njenga, one of Nairobi’s “informal residential settlements”. You had to drive through the entire slum to get to it. What a brilliant choice for location. This made much more sense than a hotel ballroom. The journey in made it very clear the work that needs to be done—and how important and vital it is.

Cecilia came up to me afterwards and asked if I knew where the Ambassador went because she wanted to give him one of her scarves. We found him just as he was getting into his vehicle to leave. He got back out and Cynthia presented him with a scarf and they took pictures. What a savvy businesswoman she is!

We then held a celebratory lunch at a Nairobi restaurant that is woman-owned. Dr. Auma Obama joined us, as well as one of Kenya’s most popular singers, Nyoto. The girls were honored and excited about the special guests. We presented them with Nike Foundation posters, certificates of completion for the training, and my PR Works book.

Nyoto has a great story to share. She was house help before she got her singing break. So she comes from the same place where the girls are now and shows them the positive results of having a vision and working towards that dream. She told the girls her story in Swahili. I asked the girls to tell her about The Girl Effect in Swahili. They had a great interchange.

Nyoto told me afterwards that she hopes we can keep in touch and I can help her bring her music to America.

It was difficult to say good-bye. I hope the girls keep in touch with me, but I know its not necessarily easy. They do not have easy access to computers. We had thought about getting each girl one of Nyoto’s CDs, and then realized they probably would not have a way to play it. Reality hits—so different from the world we know, in such a simple way.

The training definitely served its purpose. The leadership training offered by Phyllis and Eva gave them the confidence, self-esteem and knowledge that THEY ARE LEADERS. I helped them learn how to effectively assemble and communicate their stories. On the first day of training, Cynthia was too embarrassed that she was an orphan and did not want to talk about it. Now she talks about it as another piece of her background, not one that necessarily needs to define her.

Our motto was CHEERS NOT TEARS. These stories are so moving and touching that they do bring tears to people. But we hoped the end result would not be that people sat there and cried, but that people jumped up and applauded and cheered the girls on. Responded in appreciation and awe for who they are on the INSIDE and how they share themselves with others to make it a better community, a better world.

Mission accomplished. What a great day!

Monday, December 8, 2008


December 7, 2008

The training is over, the event is over, and I’m on my way home. What a rewarding trip this was. I was hired to impart my wisdom and experience to girls and young women and I feel like I am coming home with so much more than I could ever possibly give.

I would say the overall theme of this trip was “Pay It Forward.” That started with the slogan of the Women Mentorship Walk on November 29. It was highlighted throughout my time in Kenya and it is so true.

I bought from five suppliers for Up from the Dust—including two of the young women I trained. For both of them, it is their first sale to America, the first sale outside of Kenya. They are now global.

The other two new organizations help either specifically rural women or women with HIV and AIDS. They have new, unique products and the wealth is being spread. I’m excited to see the reaction.

I had my hair braided by Cynthia and her Aunt Josey. Cynthia was one of the two 12-year-olds in the training. She was orphaned two years ago and lives with her Aunt, who has a hair salon in one of the slums. They came to my hotel room and it took them 7 hours to do the braiding. I paid them almost double what they asked for in compensation. It was an added bonus just to spend the time with them. Josey is having trouble coming up with the money for Cynthia’s school fees. Cynthia has been the first in her class since she started Level 1 (she is now Level 8). What a loss it would be to society if Cynthia could not continue in school and pursue her dreams.

I made new business partnerships for future business in Kenya, which will be exciting benefit to both myself and my new partners. I hooked several women up with other women from the United States where I think there may be good synergies and good business. Pay it forward.

I donated medical supplies to Dr. Obama of CARE International. And two books written by my friend Joan Bourque to school libraries. Pay it forward.

I went to an African Art Gallery that a woman owns who was the WBF training on Nov. 28. I bought some wonderful that I may want to include in Up from the Dust in the future. In the meantime, I’ll be wearing them and enjoying them myself! Pay it forward.

THANK YOU to Vital Voices for giving me this experience. THANK YOU to the girls for letting me into your lives. THANK YOU to my co-trainers, Phyllis and Eva. THANK YOU to the Nike Foundation for focusing on the girls and carrying through with the funding for these great programs. THANK YOU to Nyokabi for the mentor walk. THANK YOU to Raychelle for trusting me as a new business partner and immediately setting up a government appointment so we can move forward. THANK YOU to Eva for sharing your church and your family with me. THANK YOU to all the Kenyans who make this a special “second home” to me!

There are more stories to tell. Small, but significant. I’ll keep them coming for the next week. Hope you enjoy them.

P.S. Mark your calendars for May 20-23, 2009, (dates changed from March) when the Kenya Association of Women Business Owners will be hosting an international conference and presenting the first ATHENA International Leadership Awards in Africa!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Kenya Day 5—December 2, 2008

Our training started today. The Nike Foundation introduced their powerful programs by showing their videos. (Please go to the website that I highlighted at the end of the day yesterday and view these videos.) The PEPFAR program was introduced and what the girls will be doing on Friday with the corporate launch of the HIV Free Generation program. Our purpose in this training is to teach the girls leadership and communication skills. We want to make them realize that they are already leaders! And how to communicate their story and their leadership messages.

I had high expectations for this training, but was somewhat concerned when the young ladies were identified (less than 24 hours before training was to begin!) because I would be working with women who were ranging from 12 to 23 years old!

But my expectations were by far exceeded. These girls are incredible! They started showing their leadership and profound thoughts from our first team-building exercise in the morning.

And it is such a joy to work with my two co-trainers, Phyllis Mwangi and Eva Muraya. They are working on the girls leadership skills and communicating those. Their presentations are lively, make the girls laugh and really add a great dimension. Eva had the girls come up with the Peacock Formula—which was 28 words that start with P that traits of leaders. (Why Peacock? Well, it starts with P, the girls thought it was a fun word and Peacocks are regal and proud—a good look for a leader!)

In the afternoon we worked on finding out the girls’ stories. Sometimes we had to push and prod and pull to get them to share, but they understood the value in that, as well. I’ve put a brief version of the girls’ stories below—this is the information that will be going out to the press for Friday’s event and gives you an idea of the phenomenal girls I am getting to know. I have added some of my side notes in parentheses.

Joyce Waithaka, 20, was raised by her mother in Muchatha. She won a business plan contest when she was 18 and opened a bakery. She now employs two other young women, including an orphan, because “if they make money and learn a trade they won’t participate in behaviors that endanger themselves.” (Today when we were envisioning a “world leader”, Joyce envisioned one of her employees. She feels her mentorship and employment may have this type of impact on this girl’s life).

Ann Agesa, 12, is a Girl Guide and lives in Nakuru with her parents. As a peer educator, she teaches other youth about HIV/AIDS prevention. She helped develop a handbook for other peer educators. She wants to be a doctor.

Cynthia Aginga, 12, lives with her aunt and uncle, their two children and her four siblings in Kasarani. Her father died when she was one year old and her mother died of cancer two years ago. Cynthia has been number one in her class at school from Class 1-8, and she won an essay contest on “Something I’ve Never Told Anyone About”. She is a member of Chill Club, which teaches youth about being an HIV Free generation. She wants to be a pilot because she wants to travel to different countries. (Cynthia is ashamed of being an orphan and did not want to publicly share that part of her story. We are working with her on being proud of who she is, where she comes from, and what she is accomplishing despite the odds against her).

Stephanie Shipemo, 20, lives in Jamhuri in Kibera and completed Level 4 this year. She dropped out of school after getting pregnant from a rape, but went back to school and completed her studies. “I am an overcomer” she says! She wants to be a beautician and make a better life for her two-year-old daughter. (Stephanie said it is the first time she told anyone about being raped.)

Maureen Atieno, 18, is a community organizer. She is a leader with the Binti Pamoja program in Kibera. She has recruited all the girls from her immediate community (30) and works with the “Kicking AIDS Out” program. She wants to be a lawyer. (We are teaching Maureen that she is a “community organizer” like President-Elect Obama! Why? BECAUSE SHE IS!!)

Maggy Muthoni, 20, is a single mother of a two-year-old and owns multiple businesses in Baba Dogo. She has learned to save money every month rather than buying snacks. Her family left the Masai over tribal conflict before she started school. Maggy was instrumental in uniting the Kikuyus and Luos in her community after the post-election violence. Many peers seek her out for her insight and guidance and personal and professional matters. She takes good care of her son, who has some health challenges.

Queen Atieno 17, lives in Baba Dogo where she works at a beauty salon seven days a week. She lives with her aunt because her parents and four siblings fled Nairobi after the election violence. She wants to expand her business, buy her own home where she will live with her younger siblings and find a caring and faithful man.

Cecilia Katungwa, 23, lives in Mukuru Fuatanyayo with a brother and little sister. Her mother was an alcoholic and died from TB when she was 13 and Cecilia was raised by nuns in a Children’s Home. She established a knitting and design business two years ago and continues to expand it each year. It is located in the Kenyatta Market. She has cultivated her leadership skills as a Chairwoman of Smart Girls Youth of Life, a savings alliance for young women ages 15-25. (I may be importing some of her items for Up from the Dust!)

Monday, December 1, 2008

KENYA Day 4, Monday, December 1, 2008

Today I went to the slums of Nairobi for the first-time and it was such an uplifting experience.

That may seem like an odd statement and my emotions from today are so high that it may even be hard for me to explain.

I must start out here by saying that I am tired. It is getting late and training starts tomorrow. So I may leave some holes and some questions, but please be assured that I will try to fill in those holes throughout this week. However, I have to share some points about my day despite the late hour at night.

Today we did site visits to some of the homes and businesses of girls who are going to be in our training program this week. We visited two girls that are in a program conducted by TechnoServe (

Maggie sells water (for 2 shillings a jug—about a quarter) and Queen works with her aunt in a hair salon. Maggie and her two-year-old son live in one room and it is obvious that it is cherished and taken care of with great pride. Lace curtains and beautiful embroidered couch cushions are just a few of the special touches.

But I was particularly impressed when Maggie reached under her mattress to show us her ledger. She had been keeping track of her sales for two months. She shows sales and expenses for each day. But most impressively, she also shows SAVINGS for each day. She is saving over 1,000 shillings a month.

She said she learned how to do all this—her ledger and to save—through the TechnoServe program (which is funded by the Nike Foundation). Maggie said before her training with TechnoServe, she spent the extra money on snacks, but now she understands the importance of saving.


It was quite a walk from the main road and entrance to the slum—and local bus stop—to Queen’s home. I mention this because sometimes when Queen goes to training programs she gets back after dark. Our chaperones from TechnoServe told us how unsafe this area of the slum in particular is at night, and they are concerned about how far Queen has to walk from the bus stop.

The entire time we are walking through the “streets” the young children are running up to us and saying “How are you?” It is a chorus of “How are you?” “How are you?” “How are you?” the entire afternoon! Maggie told me that these are the first English words that children learn. Many reach out to shake our hand. Pauline Mwangi, Entrepreneurship Manager for TechnoServe (and a graduate of a Vital Voices-Fortune program) said most of these children have probably never seen a white person.

There were many ducks on one street. Maggie told me the ducks belong to her cousin, who sells the ducks as a business. I asked her how her cousin can be sure the ducks aren’t stolen? Maggie said, “It is very hard to steal a duck. If someone tries to steal a duck, the duck quacks very loudly so my cousin knows and can come out and get the duck before the person can get away with it.” To Maggie, I’m sure it seemed like a funny question, because the answer is so practical.

We went to a meeting that about 10 girls had for the TechnoServe program. Maggie is the leader with a girl named Florence as the assistant leader. I was extremely impressed with both of the girls’ leadership skills. Since I had not met Florence earlier, she was a welcome surprise. She kept Maggie focused on the agenda, paid attention to staying on track of time and was not afraid to disagree if she did not think plans were practical.

Florence said, “We will be seen as very important now in our community because we have two white women that came to meet with us.”

Florence was also drop dead gorgeous. When I mentioned this on the ride back to the hotel, Pauline told me that Florence’s past included prostitution, but she had quit that and was working hard to stay away from it. TechnoServe had set up a sales internship for Florence and Pauline said she did an outstanding job.

After the meeting Florence came up to me and asked for my email address. She told me she wanted to email me and keep in touch. I was extremely honored that this bright young woman had an interest in me, this 52-year-old stranger from America. I look forward to corresponding with her and really hope she writes to me.

The girls’ group scheduled an acting class that would start the following week. Part of the purpose of the acting class is to use it as a recruiting tool to get other girls to join their group. They also discussed topics for the play they wanted to write and put together. I gave them a goal. I will be back in Kenya in March. I wanted to see their play in March. The girls, and Cyprian Amakulu, our driver and an intern with TechnoServe who works with this specific group, assured me that it would happen.

On the way back to the hotel, I asked Pauline what the goal was with these groups, which TechnoServe has set up all over Nairobi. Is it to get the girls out of the slums? Or is it as simple as trying to build up their self-esteem? Is it to help them grow a business and get a better life?

Pauline said the goal is to show the girls the options that are out there in the world. One option might be entrepreneurship. Another one might be to save money and provide a better life for your child, even if it is within the same community. This answer was so impressive to me. If the goal was to get the girls out of the slums, it may seem too far-reaching and discouraging. To build their self-esteem would not be enough. This goal makes perfect sense.

The three-day training that Vital Voices is doing for the Nike Foundation starts tomorrow. For more information on this program, go to

KENYA Day 3, Sunday, November 30, 2008

Other than logistical things with the upcoming training, I had the day off. I went to church with my friend Eva. Going to worship services in different countries is one of the greatest cultural things one can do when visiting another country, in my opinion. Eva’s church is a series of HUGE tents and there are three different simultaneous services—one for adults, one for youth and one for children. The service was almost 3 hours long, but extremely interesting. Next Sunday Eva’s choir does a holiday presentation so I’m really looking forward to that.

Some of us did an afternoon shopping trip to the Masai Market. A woman I purchased items from in August 2007 saw me and came up to me. I was so surprised that she remembered me. I was looking for her as well. You can check out my website at in the next couple of weeks and we’ll highlight the “bone jewelry” that I buy from her. It sold out quickly the last time I got it!

Phyllis Mwangi and her husband joined the Vital Voices team, Eva and her daughters and myself for dinner. We got into a very interesting discussion about the Women’s Business Forum’s advocacy training that Eva conducted on Friday (see Kenya Day 1 blog). Or—I’ll save you the trouble and remind you of one thing that I wrote:
Advocating for “economic” issues has never been discussed before, they said. Advocacy here is generally about human rights so the idea of economic empowerment and advocacy is a first.

One of the presenters, Betty Murungi, Director of the Urgent Action Fund in Nairobi, talked about the importance of businesswomen to stay involved with the human rights advocacy as well. We had a great discussion about this at dinner. I mentioned that based on my experience with WIPP, I thought it might be important for the Women’s Business Forum (WBF) to make sure they focus on business and economic issues.

This created a lot of discussion about how violence against women, gender discrimination and overall human rights violations are an economic issue. If an entire generation is dying of AIDS, where are we are business owners going to find our employees? If women are beaten and battered by their husbands, they can’t go to work and that affects the economy. If girls are married off at age 15—or lower—society is potentially missing years and years of economic contribution from that girl.

Melysa Sperber from Vital Voices, a lawyer who has experience representing human rights’ victims, cited a US Supreme Court decision that upheld a lower court ruling which declared that violence against women is even an interstate commerce issue.

Again, as I said earlier, I am active with Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP), which represents more than 500,000 women business owners on Capital Hill. WIPP has more than 30 women business groups as coalition partners. However, you will not see WIPP take an issue on a breast cancer bill, for example. WIPP only responds to issues that relate to small business or women-owned business, not to women’s issues.

Part of the strategy behind that is to keep a focus. Part of its policy statement reads “Matters which are not directly relevant to the economic health and well-being of constituent businesses are not part of our agenda.”

So, the scourge of AIDS on society does affect a business, but maybe that can be covered by making sure that businesses can afford to provide health care benefits? This is just one example. But the Supreme Court decision also shows the impact on human rights issues when businesses get involved or commerce is affected. So if more businesses and business associations got involved with human rights issues, would we move more quickly in these areas?

One suggestion I made is that for a group like the WBF, maybe economics is the umbrella and the human rights issues are visibly mentioned under that umbrella. That begs the question that should human rights issues be treated as second-rate issues—or is that how it would be perceived?

This discussion can go around and around. Will WBF, especially since it is just beginning, be less effective if they don’t keep a focus? Another great suggestion was—are any of the 30+ coalition partners in WIPP groups that are predominantly advocating for human rights issues, women’s health care issues, etc.? If not, maybe those groups need to do more to reach out and work together with business groups and add the economic impact of their issues to the forefront of their advocacy!

We continued this discussion on Monday with the NIKE Foundation representatives, because their programs really look at the economic empowerment of adolescent girls because overall, that helps increase the living situations of the girls, their families and their communities…..So again, does economics lead the human rights issue, or vice versa? More on the NIKE Foundation program later this week as we get into the training.

I encourage readers of this blog to respond to this discussion—what do you think?

Dr. Auma Obama

Here I am at the mentoring walk with Dr. Auma Obama, the Sport for Social Change Initiative Coordinator for CARE International in East Africa (and half-sister of our President-Elect!). My t-shirt was printed by Color Creations in Kenya, the business which is owned by Eva Muraya.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Saturday, November 29, 2008
The Women Mentor Walk (WMW) mentoring walk was really a great experience. It was held at the Nairobi Safari Walk of Kenya Wildlife Services. There were about 300-400 women walking. Women were randomly paired up and we walked and talked and looked at the animals.

I went as a mentor and had three women walk with me. One was in her 20s and worked in the Human Resources department of a bank, another was 37 and is the head of Human Resources for a outdoor advertising display company and a 30-year-old woman is a General Practitioner M.D.

A training for mentors was held earlier in the month that I was clearly not able to attend. We were given hand-outs that we could follow that discussed pillars of leadership development, social development and character. Signs were posted along the route (approximately 1 ½ miles) suggesting these topics, as well.

What a terrific morning. We did see some animals, although a lot were hiding in the bush. A brazen baboon (which may be an oxymoron) came up and took a woman’s bag and ripped it open before someone from the Park scared it away. All the other animals were secure behind fences—including the lion, miniature hippos, albino zebras, antelope and many other animals that we saw.

As we walked and talked, it wasn’t important who the mentor or mentee. We talked as women discussing different situations we were in—at our jobs, in our career, with our families, in our life path—and helped each other with suggestions. Jane, the 37-year-old, wants to mentor women so she participated in this walk to get some ideas, and build her confidence.

The main theme for the walk was Pay It Forward and help mold the next generation of leaders. The first WMW was held in New York in 2005and the initiative was founded by Geraldine Laybourne, the Chair and CEO of Oxygen Media. The walk has now spread to four states, Kenya and 10 other countries, including Argentina, Peru, Serbia, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Tanzania, Ghana, Egypt, Jordan and Russia. It is now an initiative of the U.S. State Department-Vital Voices-Fortune 500 Mentorship program.

Dr. Auma Obama was a special guest. She is the Coordinator for CARE International in East Africa and half-sister of U.S. President-Elect Barack Obama. I had a chance to talk to her and we plan on getting together again later in the week. I brought medical supplies from the U.S. that I donated to her to give to some of the clinics she might work with.

Both mentors and mentees were quite excited by the half-day event and I look forward to hearing from my three mentees. Each is on a different path (one has one-year-old twin girls) and I look forward to sharing that with them and seeing them again upon a return visit to Kenya.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Kenya - Day 1

I arrived in Nairobi last night after 29 hours of travel from Sedona. Vital Voices contracted me to do a training here next week which I will talk about further in a future blog. I am participating in two other Vital Voices events before next week’s training.

Vital Voices was started in 1997 by then-First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright after the UN’s Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing to promote the advancement of women as a US Foreign policy goal. It is the preeminent non-governmental organization (NGO) that identifies, trains and empowers emerging women leaders and social entrepreneurs around the globe, enabling them to create a better world and providing these women with the capacity, connections and credibility they need to unlock their leadership potential. In June 2000 Vital Voices Global Partnership was created as nonprofit. Besides Senator Clinton (D-NY), the other two honorary co-chairs are Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, (R-TX) and Nancy Kassebaum Baker, former US Senator (R-KS). For more, go to

I have spoken at conferences for Vital Voices before, including leadership conferences for Latin American women in Miami, FL, African women in Capetown, South Africa (2007), and Eura-Asia women in Kiev, Ukraine (2007).

My first day here in Kenya I attended a “Women’s Business Forum” which reminded me a lot of WIPP (Women Impacting Public Policy). The WBF ( is sponsored by Vital Voices and The Gates Foundation. My good friend here, Eva Muraya, put the program together.

About 20 leading women entrepreneurs in Kenya trained in advocacy skills to enable them to face up the challenges of engaging stakeholders so that policies and legal barriers can be changed to create a more enabling and level economic playing field for women.

The main objective of WBF is to improve the quality of lives among women and to secure the rights and opportunities for women in business, governance and leadership positions. This will be realized through the following specific objectives:
1. to enhance women’s participation in policy making process
2. To impart gender advocacy skills among emerging women leaders
3. To establish increased access to finance for women entrepreneurs
4. Gender mainstreaming of government projects, financial services providers, corporate governance and legal

Advocating for “economic” issues has never been discussed before, they said. Advocacy here is generally acout human rights so the idea of economic empowerment and advocacy is a first.

The speakers lined up were extremely impressive. Jane Kiragu, Managing Director of Satima Consultants Ltd, organized the seminar with Eva. She is a lawyer
and an advocate of the High Court of Kenya. She is a household name in Kenya and has over 18 years of experience in human rights law, lobbying, research, training, facilitation, evaluations, operational management and legal work. She said there are five fluid stages of advocacy: issue identification, developing solutions, awareness building (building political support), policy action and evaluating the policy.

An icon in Kenya politics is Mrs. Rose Waruhiu, a former member of Parliament. Her public service career spanned 35 years. She served as a fellow at IOP Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Betty Murungi, Director of the Urgent Action Fund in Nairobi, talked about “trading up” your advocacy. She has a degree in law and was a fellow at the Harvard Law School’s Human Rights Program in 2005-2006. She has extensive experience in the Human Rights of Women and was awarded the international Advocate for Peace Award by the Cardozo Law School in New York.

She drew a spiral with “me and mine” in the middle. As the spiral unfolds is the “team” or your “company/business.,” The next part of the cycle is community and then policy change, followed by regional, national and glob
al. After global is social entrepreneurship. She calls the inner part the “me, me, me. You will always revert back to this if you go through a divorce, your spouse dies—we tighten up. If we’re here, we go around in circles and someone else controls your life.” But if you continue progressing in advocacy, you eventually go global and become a social entrepreneur.

It was a fascinating day, hearing a different culture discuss advocacy and seeing how much work there is for all of us to do in research (thank goodness for the Center for Women’s Business Research in the U.S.!) and advocacy. And thank goodness for WIPP that has gotten us so far down the road in the U.S.!

I’ll be up early tomorrow morning for the First Annual Women Mentoring Women (WMW) Walk.

The WMW walk is an annual event that will be held in 15 countries around the world including Kenya.. It is an initiative of the Vital Voices-Fortune 500 Mentorship program alumni around the world. It is an exciting opportunity to pay it forward.
I will not have a mentor there, but the 500 expected attendees will be teams of seasoned entrepreneurs and young women ages 21-30. While walking the 1.5-2 kilometers, the women will share wisdom and experience in the areas of leadership, character and social etiquette. For more info go to or come back here tomorrow when I report on the walk! Time for bed—its been a tough day to stay awake!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Thoughts from the last Presidential debate:

I have a special needs child who went through special education in school. She graduated from high school, is a good reader, has a job and lives almost independently. Much of this has to do with the quality of education that she received.

There is no way that one person can be both an advocate for special needs children AND for school vouchers. Most private and charter schools do not accept children with special needs. Legally, they don’t have to. Legally, public schools have to. Why would we give public money to a school that doesn’t have to accept all children?

There is a similar problem with teacher incentives. How are these incentives going to be determined? By testing scores? Then special education and resource teachers, and many ESL teachers, who may be the best of the best, would never get incentive pay.

If Joe the plumber has a business that makes more than $250,000, and his income is $250,000 (the only type of income that Obama is proposing to tax), then I say—he needs a better accountant.

OK, all joking aside, I think things were getting mixed up—there is a difference between what a business makes and what the owner of the business makes. There are a lot of business costs that will dwindle that $250,000 gross revenue quickly.

Why was Josephine the plumber not mentioned? We’ve addressed Joe six-pack, Joe the plumber…what about Joanna the single mother, Jill who has to find the health insurance and health care for her family, Jackie who works two jobs to make ends meet, Jessica who was passed over for a promotion and it was given to a younger man, Jana who owns her own business and is looking at having to lay off 10% of her employees, Jezebel who worked hours on a proposal and was on a winning bid for a federal government contract job but the prime contractor ended up doing her portion of the work in-house, or June who can’t get a business loan because she was late on some of her cancer treatment payments. (Regards to the Women’s Media Center for prompting these thoughts).

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


The Republican Convention started on Monday in St. Paul but was scaled back to only an afternoon event due to Hurricane Gustav. Our WIPP event was from 2-4 p.m. and the Convention was 2-5 p.m. so we did not make any Convention activities.

The delegates I spoke to were very understanding of the changes that were made. Unless everyone is on message point, no one at all stated disappointment or dismay. It was so obvious that this is what needed to be done. Some of the delegates even said it gave them some breathing room to enjoy other things throughout the Twin Cities and some of the other Convention meetings—such as the WIPP event.

The evening parties were not cancelled. We went to AT&T/Blue Cross and Lifetime parties. The Beach Boys were the highlight at AT&T. At every event, there was information and immediate ways that people could donate to hurricane relief efforts. The AT&T and Blue Cross party had donation forms. The Red Cross had a table set up at the entry to the Lifetime Party.

AT&T and other wireless companies have ways to easily text a donation to the American Red Cross (and the donation appears on your cell phone bill). To help the victims of Hurricane Gustav, you can use your cell phone to donate $5. Just text the keyword “Give” (4483) to the address 2HELP (24357).

There was a huge sigh of relief by everyone during the day that the anticipated severe damage to New Orleans did not happen. This also helped the positive and upbeat atmosphere.

The Twin Cities are not as “twin” as we had imagined. Both downtowns and Convention Center areas have a lot of activities. But they are a $30 cab ride apart from each other so it takes specific planning, unless you have an unlimited budget, to determine what you want to do and the locations.

We did take a couple of hours to go to Civic Fest at the Minneapolis Convention Center. It was a terrific hall of historical, presidential and Minnesota displays. There were replicas of the White House and Air Force One and real presidential limousines. There were films and displays on presidential history. The Smithsonian Museum had moved part of their display of First Lady dresses here for the Convention.

There was a vendor area. One vendor “guessed wrong” and had McCain-Romney buttons! I bought two—these might be collector items. I was surprised at how many bi-partisan and non-partisan booths were there, which was an encouraging sign. I was also surprised at how nasty some of buttons and bumper stickers were against the Democrats and Democrat Presidential nominee Barack Obama. This really doesn’t seem necessary. One bumper sticker said “Republican Women Like Men.” What is that trying to imply?


The Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council (SBE) and Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP) hosted a tea in AT&T’s meeting suite at Brit’s Pub in Minneapolis. The tea was to “celebrate our leaders who support U.S. competitiveness, innovation and entrepreneurship.” WIPP also presented its Economic Blueprint: The Women Business Owners Platform for Growth.

Karen Kerrigan, President & CEO of the SBE Council, and Barbara Kasoff, President and CEO of WIPP, both spoke. Opening remarks were given by Carly Fiorina, the RNC 2008 Victory Chairman and former CEO of Hewlett-Packard.

She said that women balance family budgets, grow businesses at twice the rate of men, and make the health care, education and consumer choices. Then consider the fact that small business creates two-thirds of all jobs and it is clear that women will decide this election.

She committed to get the Economic Blueprint directly to Senator John McCain, the Republican nominee for President.

She also got cheers about Sarah Palin’s nomination for Vice President. She sited Palin’s executive experience as head of a family, mayor and governor. In a private conversation I had with Fiorina before the program began, we talked about the media treatment of powerful women.

Fiorina was fired from Hewlett-Packard the same week that the major indictments came down for Enron and World Com. Yet her firing received 10 times the media coverage. I heard her state this in a keynote speech at a Women’s Leadership Exchange event and addressed that with her again. She said she was curious to see how the media would treat Palin. I said, “They took off after Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama and Cindy McCain.” She agreed that we needed to stand up for all women and said, “Sometimes principles are more important than partisanship.”

Marilyn Carlson Nelson, the former Chairman and CEO of Carlson, Inc., was the keynote speaker. She has a new book out on “The Power of Leadership.” She sited a study that showed that Middle School girls say they do not want to go into business because business is not aligned with their values. This obviously needs to change.

By the time Ann Sullivan who does government relations for WIPP spoke on the Blueprint, at least one-third of the audience had left. Good lesson that policy should come first on an agenda.

In a recent conversation with a woman who leads a non-profit health care association, she said she worked hours on a story with a Glamour magazine reporter. The key to her for this story was a call to action on pending legislation—for readers to contact their legislators to support the bill. She was extremely dismayed when Glamour left out mention of the legislation and the call to action.

Evidently the Glamour editors did not think their readers were interested in legislation. This type of perception can be reinforced by the fact that so much of the audience left before the Blueprint was presented at the SBE and WIPP event.

These are more examples of how we have to continue to work to get the word out on the vital importance of women and small business owners to LET THEIR VOICES BE HEARD.

And by the way, my friend who would not do the Lifetime segment at the State Fair, did it at the Lifetime party. She understood that she has to add her voice! Each small step and victory counts!

Monday, September 1, 2008


Hurricane Gustav is obviously overtaking the news, rightfully so. The Republicans have cut back on their events today (Monday) and the schedule will be determined day by day. WIPP is going ahead with our meeting today. I saw that Cindy McCain has arrived, although President Bush and Vice President Chaney, and several Governors from the Gulf Coast, have understandably cancelled.

Some of went to the Minnesota State Fair yesterday—an All-American Day. Lifetime TV had a booth there and wanted people to speak for 30 seconds about what they would do if they were President. It will be posted on U-Tube. I spoke about WIPP’s Economic Blueprint and Small Business, of course.

It was the end of a long day and we were exhausted, but I was still disappointed, and a bit dismayed, that my two woman friends would not do it. One is a small business owner.

We really need to have our voices heard—no matter what it takes. They were asking for only 30 seconds—not an intellectually perfect dissertation.

Again—write, speak—get whatever your message is out! Participate in, WIPP. LET YOUR VOICE BE HEARD.


The WIPP contingent flew out of Denver to Minneapolis. There were a lot of media on our flights (as most attendees go to one convention or the other, not both). We’ve got the weekend to catch up on our other work before we start up again. Of course, the media is full of news on how the impending hurricane will affect the convention, and Governor Sarah Palin’s announcement as Senator John McCain’s VP nominee.

We are getting a lot of questions about what we think of Palin’s nomination. WIPP does not endorse any candidate. We encourage women to run for political office, from community boards to federal elective office. In fact, a recent nationwide survey commissioned by WIPP told us that our members place a great deal of importance in electing more women to public office and feel that the country would be better governed if more women, and specifically more women business owners, in office.
However, WIPP’s sole mission is to educate women business owners on the economic issues before Congress that affect their business growth – and they, alone, will decide which candidate to support.
According to the survey, women small business owners are nearly unanimous in their intent to vote in the November election, and a majority feel that they have some degree of influence on the outcome of the election. Our members are almost evenly divided between the two candidates, and one in six are undecided. They are similarly divided over which candidate would be best for small business.
The economic picture is the top issue for small businesses today, followed by other pocket book concerns like taxes and gas prices. WIPP worked together with 30 small business organizations to develop its Economic Blueprint. WIPP and its partners are united on six economic areas that are essential to our economic growth: healthcare, procurement, taxes, access to capital, energy and telecommunications, and the Blueprint is our call to action to Congress. We call upon Congress to adopt the principles contained in the Blueprint, as they are essential for small business growth. It represents our action plan to remove the constraints that inhibit the success and growth of women enterprises. The Economic Blueprint was unveiled at both the Democratic and Republican conventions, and will be the primary focus of WIPP’s Annual Meeting on September 8-9 in Washington, DC.


It’s hard to even begin writing about the last day of the Democratic Convention. Presidential nominee Barack Obama (we can now drop “presumptive”) spoke to me and 84,999 others at the Invesco Stadium in Denver. That speech was well-covered so I won’t speak much more about it now.

There was five hours of programming before Obama spoke. Jennifer Hudson sang one of the most beautiful renditions of the Star Spangled Banner that I’ve ever heard (right there behind Marvin Gaye and Jeffrey Osborne). Vice President and Nobel Prize Winner Al Gore gave a rousing speech to the crowd.

It was a combination of a rock concert and another marathon of speeches. Sheryl Crow and Stevie Wonder played, and Michael McDonald, who was kept to only one song.

The other speeches were pretty much more of the same—generals, Republicans, other politicos—giving their support to Obama. A particularly touching moment was when Martin Luther King III spoke, on the anniversary of his father’s “I Have a Dream” speech, and said how proud he would be.

The Obama campaign asked the crowd to text to the DNC to show their support. No one around me could get any cell phone signal for the next hour—the request probably overloaded the service in the area and shut it down, or significantly slowed it down.

Eight “regular citizens” proceeded Obama’s speech. One of them was a small business owner. Obama’s speech also touched on small business. I felt small business was well represented, especially after my earlier experiences highlighted in the previous blog.

While Obama spoke, there were as many tears throughout the stadium as cheers. The Olympic comparison continues as the evening ended with a fantastic display of fireworks. (And because they ran out of food and drink at a lot of stands, as well as t-shirts, hats, etc).


I attended the Women’s Caucus meeting on Thursday morning. It was great to hear so many women speak who are in public office. The highlight of the morning was Michelle Obama’s speech.

Only one speaker mentioned women as a voting bloc—and small business ownership wasn’t mentioned at all. The Ohio representative who mentioned women as a voting bloc talked about “women in mini-vans.”

But it hit me at this caucus that perhaps I was starting to “whine.” It’s not enough to sit and complain about small business not being mentioned enough. The big issue is—what are we going to do about it? Well, I’m doing part of it, by showing up at the conventions and being a part of the process. And even more importantly, being bi-partisan.

We need to write letters to our representatives, to newspapers and be involved in the dialogue. Our time will come if we keep up this work. Being involved in associations like WIPP is vital.

This was hit home even more in the afternoon when I attended the meeting for Obama’s campaign on small business. In my introduction I stated my disappointment that small business wasn’t mentioned more from the podium. Another gentleman disagreed with me and said that Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez’s speech on small business was great and that we should be pleased that we even got there. “There were many other issues that never got mentioned from the podium that people feel passionate about,” he said, “including HIV-AIDS.”

I realized he’s right. Our steps may be small, but we’re making them. And we have to keep up the hard work to be recognized as the voting block and economic engine that we are.

Thursday, August 28, 2008


When small business isn’t mentioned from the podium, that means small business isn’t in the news coverage. And the snowball effect keeps going. That’s why we have our work cut out for us to get the voices of SMALL BUSINESS and WOMEN-OWNED BUSINESS heard.

Today’s news coverage is primarily on President Clinton’s speech. And Joe Biden’s. I personally think the speech that should get coverage is the one by Major Tammy Duckworth. I encourage you to go on the web to read about her.


Yesterday brought more Olympic comparisons to mind. Pin trading is big at the Olympics. Buttons, buttons and more buttons is big at the Convention.
And, of course, that public transit being the slowest way to go.


Another day at the Convention, another evening of fantastic speeches, but no mention of small business at all.

Yesterday I wrote that “at least I was in the building.” I should learn to be more specific. Last night I got into the Pepsi Center again. But there were NO seats. So how did I see President Bill Clinton’s speech? On a TV monitor in the hallway.

I did snag a standing spot (where I really was not credentialed to be) so I got to see Vice President Nominee Joe Biden’s speech and the surprise appearance of Barack Obama.

I have to look back at another similar example. In the summer of 1999 I had surgery to remove a cantaloupe-sized tumor. Needless to say, I spent most of that summer in the hospital, doctors’ offices and cancer centers for treatment. In the summer of 2000 my daughter had major back surgery. Another summer of hospitals and doctors’ offices. In the summer of 2001, my dad had a stroke and was in the hospital for three weeks before he died. The spring of 2002, I said—I just want a summer without going to the hospital.

Well, I should watch every word I say as in September it was diagnosed that my cancer had returned and – yep, I was back in the hospital to have surgery. Next time I'll ask for a year, not a summer.

Well, I feel the same way about saying “At least I was in the building.” I should have said, “At least I had a seat in the building.” I got credentials and got into the building last night, but there was no seat.

The shuttle buses are the SLOWEST way to get to the Convention. We should have walked again. The buses sit and wait to get full (there were only two people on it when we got on). Then it takes the most circuitous route possible. We also had to wait for hundreds of cyclists to ride by us.

We got to the Pepsi Center just as President Clinton started speaking. Being so late is probably why I didn’t get a seat. I noticed that Michelle Obama and Senator Hillary Clinton had seats. They must have gotten there earlier.

The worst part about not getting a seat is that I didn’t get any signs. I’m collecting signs from the two conventions to bring back to two classes at home.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Besides the mentions of small business being few and far between, the primary thing missing for me was the enthusiasm and optimism of the entrepreneur.

Speaker after speaker talked about our energy crisis and our poor economy. Citizen speeches were predominantly people who had lost their jobs. Many of the politicians spoke about how poor they were growing up.

Small business owners are inherently enthusiastic. We work long hours and we have a lot of challenges but we continue to believe that we can create opportunities, create jobs, give back to our communities and expand our goals.

It is commonly said that small business owners are the economic engine of our economy. Not the corporations. If that is the case, why are we ignored from these important podiums?

I think examples of thriving (small) businesses could have been highlighted without making the economy or energy crisis seem “OK.” What about tutoring businesses that are growing because our education system has so many holes in it? What about bio-tech businesses that are thriving because of stem cell and scientific research that many Republicans seem to oppose? Or the small businesses that are finding energy alternatives that one of the speakers alluded to?

That’s why what WIPP is doing at the Conventions is so important. WIPP is the nation’s largest bipartisan group of women business owners. It is unveiling the “Economic Blueprint – The Women Business Owners Platform for Growth” at the 2008 Democratic and Republican National conventions. Created as a guidebook for Congress and the next administration, the Economic Blueprint outlines the public policies necessary to help women entrepreneurs grow their businesses in the 21st Century.

Women entrepreneurs are a growing force in our nation, owning 10.4 million businesses and generating $1.9 trillion in annual revenues. However, there are still several obstacles impeding our growth. “t is our expectation that each and every member of Congress, regardless of party, and the incoming administration, will take action to make the principles outlined in the Economic Blueprint a reality.

Released 20 years after the historic Women’s Business Ownership Act of 1988 (HR 5050), which paved the way for an unprecedented growth in the number of women entrepreneurs, the Economic Blueprint picks up where HR 5050 left off. Included in the Economic Blueprint are six critical public policy areas that affect the expansion of women-owned businesses today: Healthcare, Access to Capital, Energy, Procurement, Taxes and Telecommunications.

WIPP members believe these principles will allow women business owners to flourish in a global marketplace. We have that entrepreneurial optimism. By embracing the goals and principles which are spelled out in the Economic Blueprint, WIPP joins the strong coalition of women business organizations working to ensure women achieve the parity which they have been seeking since 1988.

Talk about messages of “hope.” My hope is that success stories can be used as effectively as stories of hard times and despair.

Where Oh Where is Small Business?

The Pepsi Center was packed last night. I felt so lucky to have a credential to be there. And I felt lucky that I got there early enough to get a seat!

Yes, you get a better view by watching on TV. I hear people say the same thing about going to sporting events. But to me, there’s nothing like experiencing it live.

The people on the stage were only small blurs I was so high up. But as the saying goes: “At least I was in the building.”

I am here to represent Women Impacting Public Policy. So I paid particular attention to what, if anything, was said about small business. Unfortunately, I didn’t have to take too many notes.

Speaker after speaker said nothing about small business. The theme on Tuesday night definitely seemed to be “energy” and “hard times.”

The first speaker I heard mention small business was Nancy Floyd, founder of Nth Power, an energy technology investment firm in Portland, Oregon. She mentioned that small businesses can help solve the energy crisis and how they are getting private funding, but no assistance from the government. I wanted to hear more.

Then the Honorable Nydia Velazquez, member of the US House of Representatives from New York and Chair of the House Small Business Committee, spoke. Her entire speech was on small business and women-owned businesses. “There are billions in lost opportunities because women business owners do not have access to the marketplace. We must demand a level playing field. Neglecting small business is what creates unemployment.”

Her ending words were, “Small business is big business in America. The entrepreneurial spirit is the backbone of this country.”

Speech after speech, I’m not sure how many people listen. They are truly waiting for the evening headliners and only the headliners are covered live on television.

The keynote address was by the Honorable Mark Warner, Senate candidate and former Governor of Virginia. He was a small business owner and briefly talked about his three endeavors.

Governor Warner gave a good speech but what a difficult position he was in (which he mentioned). The keynote speech four years ago was given by the junior Senator from Illinois, Barack Obama. And the real headliner was yet to come.

Three current governors spoke after Warner and –before Hillary—and gave great speeches—Ted Strickland of Ohio, Deval Patrick of Massachusetts and Brian Schweitzer of Montana, who was particularly entertaining. Any of these three would have been great if featured as “the” keynote.

Senator Hillary Clinton brought down the house. She did mention small business once but clearly, it was not the focus of her speech.

President Bill Clinton arrived just before Governor Warner’s speech. Right before Hillary spoke, white Hillary signs were passed out throughout the Pepsi Center. I saw President Clinton refuse the signs that were being passed to him.

From the Olympics to the Democratic Convention

I can’t help but feel a bit of déjà vu here in Denver at the Democratic National Convention. I was in Beijing for the first 10 days of the Olympics earlier this month. There are a lot of similarities. The different venues (I must have walked miles yesterday going from one event to another—and picking up credentials). The police presence—although it is much for obvious here than it even was in China. And the police seem to have a lot more “gear” here (bullet proof vests, many things attached to their belts, helmets, etc) than the police did in China.

And the crowds! (Photo on the top is from Denver, other is from Beijing). One of my few criticisms of the Olympics in Beijing was that you had to have an event ticket to get into Olympic Park. So instead of a party atmosphere in this incredible spot, it almost always seemed “deserted.” That would be like saying you have to have a credential to get onto the 16th Street Mall here in Denver. Not so. The party atmosphere is present in Denver and the streets are lively until late at night.

There must be hundreds of vendors selling every type of t-shirt, button and sign imaginable. I have a budget from two school classrooms back home and it will be easy to fulfill their orders within budget—it’ll just be hard to choose. So far my favorite button is “Hillary is for Obama and So Am I.”

Despite the crowds, of course, I run into people I know. Totally accidentally. I can’t necessarily say that happened in China!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


My overall goal for my business, and my passion, is to help people let their voices be heard. I particularly (or at least most often) work with women.
Men tend to be more visible. When you think of powerful women, Hillary and Oprah may be the top two that come to mind. But there are many women who have a wide range of influence across a wide range of industries and in both public and private sectors. So why is the population of women so invisible? Without role models, young women may not go after positions that they want to achieve.
Women tend to think that if others recognize their work, they'll be rewarded for it. That is not necessarily the case.
And in the times of the upcoming Presidential election, women are one of the largest, if not THE largest, voting blocks. We got a lot of attention during a previous election as "soccer moms." Yes, many of us are proud mothers. Yes, many of us car pool our kids around to soccer, music lessons, gymnastics, play dates, etc.
But seriously, how insulting. We are businesswomen. We lead the drive to save our environment. We influence most of the consumer purchases. Implying that all we do is shuttle our children around limits our voice and limits the dialogue.
I am attending both conventions with Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP). WIPP, the nation’s largest bipartisan group of women business owners, will join a coalition of 30 women’s business organizations in unveiling the “Economic Blueprint – The Women Business Owners Platform for Growth” at the 2008 Democratic and Republican National conventions. Created as a guidebook for Congress and the next administration, the Economic Blueprint outlines the public policies necessary to help women entrepreneurs grow their businesses in the 21st Century.

Women's Right to Vote

Some women won’t vote this year because – why, exactly? We have carpool duties? We have to get to work? Our vote doesn’t matter? It’s raining?

Read this story and maybe you’ll change your mind:
The women were innocent and defenseless. And by the end of the night, they were barely alive.

Forty prison guards wielding clubs and their warden’s blessing went on a rampage against the 33 helpless wrongly convicted of “obstructing sidewalk traffic.” They beat Lucy Burn, chained her hands to the cell bars above her head and left her hanging for the night, bleeding and gasping for air. They hurled Dora Lewis into a dark cell, smashed her head against an iron bed and knocked her out cold. Her cellmate, Alice Cosu, thought Lewis was dead and suffered a heart attack. Additional affidavits describe the guard grabbing, dragging, beating, choking, slamming, pinching, twisting and kicking the women.

Thus unfolded the “Night of Terror” on November 15, 1917, when the warden at the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia ordered his guards to teach a lesson to the suffragists imprisoned there because they dared to picket Woodrow Wilson’s White House for the right to vote.

For weeks, the women’s only water come from an open pail. Their food – all of it colorless slops – was infested with worms. When one of the leaders, Alice Paul, embarked on a hunger strike, they tied her to a chair, forced a tube down her throat and poured liquid into her until she vomited. She was tortured like this for four weeks until word was smuggled out to the press.

It is jarring to think Woodrow Wilson and his cronies tried to persuade a psychiatrist to declare Alice Paul insane so that she could be permanently institutionalized. And it is inspiring to watch the doctor refuse. Alice Paul was strong, he said, and brave. That didn’t make her crazy.

The doctor admonished the men: “Courage in women is often mistaken for insanity.”

What would those women think of the way women today use – or don’t use – their right to vote?

August 18 was the 88th Anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution. It’s time to consider how far US women have come in the last 88 years, and how much farther we have to go.

WIPP is proud to be releasing The Economic Blueprint, the Women Business Owners’ Platform for Growth, at the Republican and Democratic Conventions (and in Washington, DC to Congress on September 9th). The Blueprint, comprised of research derived from WIPP members and members of its Coalition Partners over the last year, will provide a clear roadmap for Congress and the New Administration of the policy needs and objectives in the coming years.

We are especially proud of the Blueprint because it is has been created with no corporate funds, and is being supported by the many women business owners who have agreed to sign onto the Blueprint as sponsors.