International Women's Day

03.09.11: Back stage with Michael Franti, Jay Bowen, Crystal Bowersox and India Arie


It’s crack of dawn, the morning after CARE’s big International Women’s Day 100th anniversary celebration in Washington DC. Today’s conference will prove to be a long and very full day, so I’ll grab this moment tell you about the party, which included 1100 fellow CARE supporters (who came from all over the world) and a concert by the sweetest country singer, Sarah Darling, American Idol runner-up Crystal Bowersox, Michael Franti (fresh off his Sounds of Sunshine tour), and the ever-gorgeous, Grammy winner, India Arie.

What’s International Women’s Day about? It’s about honoring women who do between 65-70% of the world’s work but still don’t reap the same life benefits as men. In developing countries, women get paid only pennies on the dollar compared to men (if they get paid at all) and rarely enjoy the same privileges and decision-making power, even over their own and their children’s health, education, career, marital status, or when (or if) they’ll have children and how many.

International Women’s Day is about recognizing this disparity and celebrating the power of women to get it all done, whether they’ll be rewarded or not. It’s about giving a shout out to the biggest lesson women learn upon becoming mothers: OMG! It’s all up to me! Every one is depending on little ol’ me! Raising this child, managing this home, family and career is all on my shoulders. Certainly, the men in their lives, young fathers with careers and family responsibilities of their own are hard workers and over the last several decades have stepped up to shoulder more familial duties. That may be more common in the US, Europe, Canada and other developed nations than it is in undeveloped countries. Still, men know (and are probably oh-so-grateful): It’s the women who run the world. They’re the Moms. So, once a year - they get Women’s Day.

All of the artists who sang their hearts out for this international crowd are CARE supporters and involved in a wide variety of other socially-involved, humanitarian organizations and efforts; many of whom are partnered with CARE. There are a million ways to “save the world” and these guys did their part last night, one song at a time.

After the concert, I headed back stage to talk with the artists. Michael Franti has been “on the CARE bus” for years, tirelessly devoting his talents as a musician and speaker at CARE events all over the world. He’s as knowledgeable about the issues surrounding international poverty as top-level CARE staffers.

When I asked him why women’s issues are so important to him, he told me it was because his mother raised him right. As an adopted child to a mother with five children, he said, “My mom worked her ass off every day to make sure all of us kids had everything we needed, that we felt loved, were treated well and treated the same. She taught us that when you go out in the world, you give everybody the same consideration. We’re all equal…she made sure we treated everyone that way.”

Jay Bowen plays guitar with Franti and is the happiest, goofiest, most joyful musician I’ve ever seen on stage - the dictionary picture of “fun.” I asked him what he’d learned about international women’s issues from playing all over the world with Michael. He echoed the sentiments held by everyone that night – “It’s the women who get everything done. They’re the ones who’ll make sure the kids are fed, educated and healthy. If they’re not taken care of, it’s all going to fall apart.” As he was talking to me, someone came over and whispered in his ear, “Uh Jay, there are a bunch of girl scouts who are just dying to get their picture taken with you,” and he was off – happy to oblige.

I sat with Crystal Bowersox and we chatted with India Arie and India’s mother, Simpson. Crystal and I talked about why she’s chosen to align with CARE when she has a world of humanitarian opportunities open to her after her success on American Idol. “My friend, Michael Franti, asked me to perform with him at the Power to the Peaceful concert last year. I learned so much at that event from him and the CARE staff about the issues women face in the world. It opened my eyes to a world I never knew about and once they’re opened, you can’t close them. I grew up in a single-parent family that struggled to make it every single day. It was tough and we didn’t have everything we needed. Now I know, that was just an American struggle. Women in developing countries struggle on a whole other level that I never realized existed. I feel like I can relate a little bit about what that means and I want to be more involved in the solution.” Then, the conversation verged into the most universal and international women’s topic – hair – as India, Crystal and Simpson discussed dreadlock maintenance.

Stay tuned for more blogs from the National CARE Conference.

Jeanne Faulkner, R.N., lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and five children. Got a question for Jeanne? E-mail it to and it may be answered in a future blog post.

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