“There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” – Madeleine Albright, Women in the World Summit, 2012
Community. It’s one of the most important, most fundamental elements of the Urban Zen philosophy. We’ve seen passion amplified exponentially because of a shared commitment to create change and we’ve seen innovative solutions born out of collective conversations. From the very beginning, women have always, always been an integral part of our community and like the above quote from Madeleine Albright conveys, we believe that creating a sisterhood of support is essential.
Our founder, Donna Karan, has a huge heart for women and has long understood how important it is for women to support each other. It is because of these things that the Urban Zen Foundation team attended the Daily Beast’s 3rd Annual Women in the World Summit, which kicked off on Thursday March 8th, in celebration of International Women’s Day.
The three-day event, hosted by Newsweek and The Daily Beast, brought together some of the most prominent figures in business, politics, women’s rights and journalism to discuss the most prevalent issues affecting women today. With an itinerary that literally included hundreds of women, it’s difficult to concisely convey the enormity of wisdom, passion and motivation that was shared at the summit. With powerhouse women like Secretary Hillary Clinton, Gloria Steinem, Madeleine Albright, Meryl Streep, Angelina Jolie, Sheryl Sandberg, Zainab Salbi, Diane Von Furstenberg, Sarah Brown and Chelsea Clinton taking the stage to give voice to the rise of women, the on-going fight for equality and the necessity of coming together, it was impossible to not want to be a part of this compelling story of change.
It wasn’t only women who were there to speak powerfully and poignantly about pressing issues, there were also an impressive number of girls who took the stage to showcase how, even as children, they’re ready and able to stand in their power, own their voices, and usher in a promising future. Suma Tharu serves as such a beautiful example. A 16-year-old former slave from Nepal turn student thanks to Room to Read, Suma bravely took the stage to sing a song she wrote about her time as an indentured servant: “Selfish were my mother and father, they gave birth to a daughter. Did you want to see me suffer, mother? Did you want to see me suffer, father?”
We were also struck by the panel led by Chelsea Clinton on the digital lives of girls. Chelsea shared, “Too often we focus on the perils and pitfalls that the Internet and social media pose for young women and girls, and clearly those challenges are real. Too rarely, though, do we focus on the ways in which young women and girls are using the Internet and social media to find their voices to sing and dance, but also to project their voices and to help organize and build communities and movements … to help build a world online and offline that all of us would rather live in.”
The young women that joined Chelsea on the panel were filled with resiliency and vibrant potential and a committed passion for becoming game-changers. It was beyond inspiring.
Perhaps the most moving portion of the summit occurred during the finale when Meryl Streep, in all her luminary splendor, stepped onto the stage to introduce Secretary Hillary Clinton. It was awe-inspiring to see the Women in the World stage shared by two women who’ve spent their lives serving as captivating champions of women’s voices. Meryl introduced Secretary Clinton by lifting up her latest Oscar (which she just recently won for her performance as Margaret Thatcher in the film Iron Lady) and said, “This is what you get when you play a world leader,” and then as Secretary Clinton stepped onto the stage, Meryl finished her speech by saying, “And this is what you get when you ARE a world leader.”
With profoundly articulate eloquence the Secretary spoke to the attendees of the summit with conviction born out of a lifetime of service and an ever-present commitment to the betterment of the global community of women. She shared personal anecdotes and professional wisdom. She touched on her trials and her triumphs and, most importantly, she drove home this message: “Never give up. Never, never, never, never, never give up.”
Seemingly simple words, but when put into action become precisely what is needed to move mountains.