Politics of Poverty

What powerful women look like

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Yesterday +70 women used their considerable passion, voice, and influence to speak about influencing US policy so women worldwide can feed their families and communities.

If none of us knew where we would be born, if we would be rich or poor, healthy or ill, male or female, short or tall, American or Kenyan or Indian or Chilean, what human rights would we want to have respected? That is the question posed by political theorist John Rawls, whose work redefined how we conceive of human rights, fate, and fairness. From behind that “veil of ignorance”, Rawls asked, what standards would we set for the world?

This week, to mark International Women’s Day, Oxfam celebrated the amazing contributions of two women—Anna Oloshuro Okaro and Kristin Davis. Anna and Kristin were born into different worlds; Anna was born a Masai woman in Tanzania, while Kristin was a white woman in America. And these two women have led dramatically different lives; Anna lost everything after a difficult divorce, while Kristin became world famous for her role as Charlotte York Goldenblatt in Sex and the City.

After Anna’s divorce, she fought cultural norms and laws to rebuild her life—and advocated for all women in her community to have better access to education and the right to own livestock and land. An Oxfam Global Ambassador since 2004, Kristin Davis has shone a spotlight on the worst humanitarian crises facing the world—from the tsunami in Asia to the earthquake in Haiti to the famine in East Africa—and has been a tireless advocate for women, men, and communities in crisis.

Despite all that separates them, Anna and Kristin’s paths have crossed in profound ways—and the world is much, much better for it. Last year, Kristin traveled to Tanzania with Oxfam and met Anna, her family, and her herd of cattle, sheep, and goats. Wednesday night, together on Capitol Hill, Anna and Kristin were awarded the Oxfam Women’s Leadership Award for their amazing work to advocate for women worldwide and change the rules and laws that keep women trapped in poverty.

Kristin and Anna are not alone. They were joined by 70+ Oxfam Sisters on the Planet Ambassadors and supporters who convened in Washington for Oxfam’s International Women’s Day Summit and subsequent Lobby Day. Like Kristin and Anna, these women came from all walks of life: they included authors, fighter pilots, politicians, farmers, faith leaders, professors, entrepreneurs, chefs, and leaders of national non-profit organizations. Representing more than 30 states and from across the globe, they came together to ensure that US policy supports women’s ability to access the resources and rights they need to feed the world—a key component of Oxfam’s GROW campaign.

Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to President Obama, gave an inspiring keynote speech at Wednesday’s Summit. Yesterday, on International Women’s Day itself, we flexed our considerable muscle. In over 100 meetings on Capitol Hill, our Ambassadors asked Congress to support Feed the Future, which builds the capacity of small scale women farmers, and to reform food aid to include expanded regional and local purchase options.

Women living in poverty do not have $1million to donate to a Super PAC, but yesterday, they had 70+ women using their considerable passion, voice, and influence to speak to the some of the most powerful people in the world about improving US policy so women worldwide can feed their families and communities. As Anna said, “If we raise the voices of women and ensure they have the resources and rights that they are due, anything is possible.”

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