What do Bono, Melinda Gates, Kevin Spacey, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia and Women Deliver all have in common? Normally I'd say 'not much', but two weeks ago week we were all in Davos, where the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting brought together the rich and the famous - and some of us mere mortals for their annual meeting on the state of the world. And I can happily report back that we all stood up and spoke out loudly for getting girls' and women's health, rights and empowerment on the BIG political and economic agenda.
I must admit, that I had been in two minds of whether to go to Davos or not. NGOs have limited access to meetings of the World Economic Forum, it is a pain to find a place to stay, the gender ratio is horrific (only 18 percent of participants are women), and the sheer concentration of wealth and power can be a tad bit intimidating from the outside. On the other hand, if we want to change the hearts and minds of the people who have influence, we can't wait for them to come to us. So off I went, with snow boots, arguments, energy, and allies.
Below are a handful of snapshots from four jam-packed Davos days:
- Me skidding in my snow boots from one end of the Davos village to the other, all the while navigating between Mercedes and Audis. Bundled up, back and forth from meetings, events, and speaking engagements. When we first spread the word that I was going my calendar got filled from early morning to late night with help from good partners and colleagues.
- 12 business CEOs, 10 heads of UN agencies, 2 NGOs, and the UN Secretary General all sitting around the same Global Compact table to discuss how public-private partnerships can help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. I got the opportunity to remind them all that investing in girls and women is key when it comes to accelerating progress, and achieving all 17 goals - I was also able to invite them all to the Women Deliver 2016 Conference from 16-19 May in Copenhagen, Denmark.
- Sitting in a small, closed strategy meeting with 12 world influencers on how to move the agenda for girls and women forward - fast. There were big thoughts and great ideas shared at that particular meeting. (I pinched myself when I saw the seating arrangements.)
- Being greeted by 17 snowmen adorned with Global Goals hats while attending the ever so glamorous "The Global Goals for Global Girls and Women" dinner hosted by Bono and Bill and Melinda Gates. Unlike most dinners, this one was atop of a mountain overlooking Davos. Before being fed, all 70 participants - presidents, prime ministers, CEOs, celebrities, heads of UN Agencies, and a handful of activists - were asked what each and every one of us would commit to do to ensure that the SDGs become famous, financed, and focused on girls and women. It was a fantastic experience, and Melinda Gates did yet another shout out to Women Deliver, and so did wonderful youth activist, Hannah Godefah.
- Dragging myself and my suitcase through the snow, down the mountain, and to the train to catch the plane that would fly me to the International Conference on Family Planning in Bali. I left Davos tired, but content, and definitely happy that girls and women were not left out in the cold in, and that now more than ever before people are truly focused on improving the health, rights, and wellbeing of girls and women globally.
I might be naive, sleep deprived, or just caught up in the buzz of the moment, but it feel as if the tide is turning for girls and women, and as if we are moving girls and women's health, rights, and empowerment from being a non-issue, to being a non-negotiable issue. Now we move to the hard work of turning words into action.