Cultivating Leadership, One Woman at a Time
Vital Voices Global Partnership: Cultivating Leadership, One Woman at a Time
Melinda Gates says that when we invest in women and girls, “we are investing in the people who invest in everybody else.” Vital Voices is devoted to that cause, reaching 18,000 women in 182 countries with mentorship and programming to cultivate and leverage their collective potential. “Our network is a powerful group of women leaders,” says Senior Communications Manager Lizzie Kubo Kirschenbaum. “It’s a global movement that invests in women who are solving the world’s greatest challenges.”
The organization grew out of the U.S. government’s Vital Voices Democracy Initiative, established in 1997 by then-First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, following the historic United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. In 1999, Vital Voices became a non-profit, non-partisan, non-governmental organization , choosing .ORG for its online platform. Today, Vital Voices expands and enhances women’s leadership by expanding skills, fostering connections, and enhancing capacity and visibility.
“We call ourselves ‘venture catalysts,’” says Kirschenbaum. “We identify those with a vision for change and partner with them to make that vision a reality.” Vital Voices signature programs focus on human rights and ending gender-based violence, economic development and entrepreneurship, political leadership, and leadership development. Strategies include providing a “front office,” thought leadership, global activation of the Vital Voices network, and implementation of their signature programs.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, restrictions on meeting in person have forced a shift in how Vital Voices helps women do business and create change. Reaching victims of gender-based violence during a pandemic requires determination and ingenuity. Vital Voices Argentina (Voces Vitales), in partnership with Avon, helped connect victims of gender-based violence with needed services without raising abusers’ suspicions by embedding information in makeup tutorials and how-to cooking videos. Vital Voices also created a weekly network-wide webinar to help those who work to combat gender-based violence in their communities connect with and support one another.
For women running companies during this challenging time, Vital Voices is ready to help. Kirschenbaum says, “Our economic entrepreneurship team put out a needs assessment survey to their networks asking how they were doing and what they needed from us. They then created weekly webinars to help women transition to virtual work, guiding them on grant writing, and connecting them with mentors around the world.” Vital Voices also launched its Power to Empower podcast series, which showcases the diverse stories of women artists, business owners, and social activists.
As UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said at the tenth anniversary of the World Conference on Women in Beijing, “There is no tool for development more effective than the empowerment of women.” This is something that everyone can agree upon, especially at a time of world crisis.
“Women’s leadership and women’s equality is important no matter what side of the aisle you’re on. This work continues to be incredibly important,” says Kirschenbaum.
Those interested in supporting Vital Voices work can join a chapter or council or make a donation online at www.vitalvoices.org.
*all photos courtesy of Vital Voices Global Partnership