Vital Voices: The Power of women leading change around the world

Vital Voices: The Power of women leading change around the world

On Wednesday evening, Sept. 6, the Vail Symposium presented an inspirational program at the Four Seasons Resort Vail. Alyse Nelson, president and CEO of Vital Voices, brought stories of women making a difference in their community, around the world.

For more than 20 years, Vital Voices has been supporting women who are affecting change, tackling the issues that affect not only their communities, but the world at large. From human trafficking to assisting refugees to annulling child marriages, women in India, Somalia, Malawi, Kenya and locations around the globe are contributing to change–leading in their communities.

“Women lead differently,” Nelson said. “And that difference is important.”

She continued, saying that it’s not that women lead better than men (an important distinction as she’s not advocating that one way is better than another), but that they lead in a different way. These skills allow them to lead change through cause.

Illustrating these women’s stories through film, Nelson talked about some of the 150,000 women that the organization supports, in 180 countries around the world.

Including the United States.

In a story that hits close to home, Nelson talked about a collaboration between Elsamarie D’Silva from India and Ariela Suster, from El Salvador. The former created Safecity, a platform that crowd-sources and maps sexual violence and harassment in India, believing that making abuse visible will disrupt the culture of silence and impunity around sexual violence. Suster created SEQUENCE, a handcrafted accessories company that exclusively employs young people who are most vulnerable to gang recruitment. Together, they merged technology with fashion, creating a bracelet that will let women crowdmap their campuses to make them safer.

It will debut on Regis, Denver University and Colorado State University campuses.

Listening to Nelson, I got goosebumps. The economic impact of educating girls at the same level as boys and ending domestic violence is staggering: $92 billion and $1.5 trillion, respectively. The knowledge that there are ordinary women doing extraordinary things to change their community–and the world–was empowering.

A group of students got to meet Alyse Nelson after the program at Eagle Valley High School.

Perhaps the best part, though, was the fact that Nelson didn’t just speak to our assembled audience: she also took time to speak to groups of students at Vail Christian High School and Eagle Valley High School.

Knowing that a diverse group of students also had the opportunity to hear Nelson, and be inspired by Vital Voices, is what the Vail Symposium is all about.

For those who missed the program, check out Nelson’s presentation here.

–Katie Coakley

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