International Women’s Day 2012
03.09.12 The National CARE Conference and The Power of Gossip
I’m in Washington DC for the annual National CARE Conference and International Women’s Day Celebration. Usually, the conference hosts 1000 people from all over the globe, all intent on saving the world, one girl, one woman at a time. OK, maybe not one at a time…more like assisting 125 million people living in extreme poverty in 86 countries for the last 66 years. As one of the most effective global humanitarian organizations, CARE attracts people from all walks of life, looking for a way to do their part. That’s what I love about CARE – they’re an open door to the world, a way to take your talents and put them to work, whether that’s as a staffer, voter, writer, fund-raiser, student, artist…whatever…they’ll welcome you and help you find your place, your way of reaching out and connecting with the world.
Unlike most years, this CARE conference was downscaled to just a core group of CARE supporters, like myself, who represent our states. I’m Oregon’s chairperson for advocacy, a volunteer position that means I talk to my Congressmen and Senators and ask them to support legislation that will help mothers in extremely poor countries to lead better, healthier lives. This year’s conference was an opportunity for all of us to come together for a little training, bonding and socializing before we visited our governmental Representatives on Capitol Hill.
Coming to the CARE conference is also an opportunity for me to visit good friends – women and men who work for CARE year-round. They’re bright and beautiful, full of heart and humor and smart as whips. Over the years I’ve gotten to know some of them pretty well and every conference is an opportunity to get to know others better. We talk about our shared passion for helping girls and women lead healthier, happier lives and about governmental policies impacting our work. We talk about important, smarty-pants issues like public health, epidemics, maternal health legislation, global warming and so on…then we talk about what every woman and man in the world, no matter where she/he lives, no matter, her income, education or employment status – we talk about how our feet hurt in these shoes, about dinner, boyfriends, wives, husbands and children – gossip.
Gossip is universal – I’ve gabbed with women and men from India, South America, Africa, Asia and the Ukraine about the same issues my American friends and I talk about – what our kids said, what our marriages are like, our work life, stuff we want to fix in our houses, where to buy clothes we can afford, the hassle of making dinner. It’s the glue that holds the world together, the stuff from the heart that really matters to all of us. No matter where I go in the world, whether it’s a hospital or a meeting in a Senator’s office, the bond is made over the small topics that are the biggest part of every person’s day.
Don’t blow this simple stuff off because it’s the connection that helps us see that really, when you wipe away the borders and governments, we’re all living the same lives, whether that’s in Bangladesh, Peru or Indiana. We’re going to work, raising our kids and wishing our feet didn’t hurt. This is the stuff that makes it easy to lobby for women on the other side of the world through the work CARE does.
On a silly note – I ran into one of my CARE friends, Katie, at a reception the other night. Katie is CARE’s Maternal Health Senior Policy Advocate. We haven’t seen each other in a year and we chatted a bit about the conference. It wasn’t until the next day when she walked past me that I noticed the bump. “Katie, how did I miss that?” Katie looked surprised and said, “Are you kidding me? You’re this big old national pregnancy expert and you didn’t notice I was pregnant? I’m due on Sunday!” And there you have it – me – a big old national pregnancy expert and Katie, a super-important global maternal health expert – we spent the next half hour talking about due dates and inductions, about what she’d do if her water broke during a meeting and about how you gracefully manage all the phone calls from friends and family that start with “Did you have that baby yet?” It’s universal girl talk.
Celebrate your place in the international world of women and find your way to connect with women living lives like yours all over the world. I found my way to connect through CARE, but there are countless opportunities through companies, schools, churches and community groups. Just find a way and you’ll find your world expanding before your eyes.
Jeanne Faulkner, R.N., lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and five children. Got a question for Jeanne? E-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org and it may be answered in a future blog post.
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