As women step into global leadership roles in government and business, they have also become driving forces in addressing humanitarian issues, particularly those pertaining to women and children around the world.
Park City resident Jacki Zehner is one of those women whose philanthropic efforts are focused on gender equality. Her organization, Women Moving Millions, challenges other professional women to each pledge $1 million or more to causes related to "the advancement of women and girls."
But raising funds is just a part of the challenge, she said. Choosing which organizations to support is also difficult, which is why she became involved with the Global Fund For Women.
"I think, how can I pick the change agents in Rwanda or South Africa or Chile. I don't have that expertise, and to me the Global Fund For Women is that, it is my global philanthropic portfolio manager."
Last week, Zehner and fellow Parkite Susan Swartz, who is a founder of the Christian Center of Park City, hosted a luncheon highlighting one of the oldest and most successful international organizations devoted to women-led humanitarian efforts, The Global Fund for Women, which will celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2013, and they invited the fund's Chief Executive Officer, Musimbi Kanyoro, to be the event's keynote speaker.
Kanyoro, who was born in Kenya, is a former Secretary General of the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) and has participated in numerous United Nations conferences on issues related to women and families.
Kanyoro is quick to emphasize that the Global Women's Fund is not purely dedicated to a feminist agenda. Helping women to become healthier and more educated, she said, helps everyone in their communities.
She used a Ghanian proverb to illustrate the philosophy that efforts to empower women also benefit their children, their families and their communities. "A bird does not fly with one wing. We African women are never going to fly without men. Our joint work will make more of a difference together," she said.
Kanyoro singled out the Christian Center of Park City for praise saying she had heard of its work in the community, which includes maintaining a local food pantry.
"I come from Africa and I know what it means not to have food, or to have so little you don't know if you will have enough for tomorrow," she said.
While women are making great strides, Kanyoro said, there are still women in dire circumstances in places like Africa, Asia, the Pacific and in Latin America.
"This is the reality of the world in which we work. Somewhere on this planet today, some women will wrap their newborns in brown bags and newspaper and dump them in a latrine or dust bin. Some will try to take care of them but will not have enough to feed them," she said.
According to Kanyoro, the Global Fund looks for women-led groups that are working on local solutions. "That is what gives the Global Fund its edge," she said, describing efforts to expose and reduce human trafficking, to stop the practice of genital mutilation, and to ensure women and girls have the opportunity to go to school.
"We might have some people working at the top level making it possible for the international work to be known, but we also have strong leaders who are doing the work in their cities and villages," she said.
Kanyoro said The Global Fund was one of the first international organizations to take action when the Taliban decided to forbid women from going to school. They managed to channel resources into the hands of women who set up small schools in homes.
"We didn't know how it was going to work out. We knew it was dangerous, but it was the right thing to do. It was the moral thing to do. It was the ethical thing to do."
There are now 3,500 girls being educated in those classrooms, she said.
Kanyoro concluded on an optimistic note.
"I am delighted to be in this position as a woman from Africa, because those issues mean a lot to me. Together we can make a difference in the lives of men and women, boys and girls, where ever they are."
For more information about Women Moving Millions log on to www.womenmovingmillions.org
For more information about The Global Fund For Women log on to www.globalfundforwomen.org
The Global Fund for Women
Over the past 25 years:
The Global Fund for Women