RESULTS International Conference As Experienced by a New Staffer
The RESULTS 2011 International Conference (IC) also marked my first days on RESULTS staff and an intense first week it was (a special thank you to caffeine: you proved very necessary during the brimming four days and to those fighting jetlag). One of the first things that strike an IC newbie is the dedication and self-sacrifice of RESULTS’ and ACTION’s partners, staff, donors, and grassroots teams that come from around the world to discuss the work we are doing in communities locally and globally. Calling them an impressive bunch is an understatement.
Sunday began bright and early with informative and thoughtful pre-Conference sessions presented by ACTION and RESULTS/REF D.C. staffers Mandy Slutsker (“TB’S Impact on Women and Children”) and Sarah Beardmore and Jen Maurer (“Education for All: Focus on Women”). These were great introductions to — or perhaps reminders of — not only the literally life-changing work RESULTS and ACTION do, but the unfortunate lack of current focus on Tuberculosis as a disease that affects large numbers of women and children.
Likewise, in Sarah and Jen’s session, we pre-conference attendees were reminded that if you invest in the education of one girl globally, you are investing not only in her own health and well-being but that of her family and community; it truly is a ripple effect. Sarah recounted the harsh reality of young girls seeking an education in Mali: when asked who of them want to attend high school, all raise their hands, but the girls’ dropout rate paint a grimmer picture. Only one in four girls will make it to high school, dropping out due to early marriage, unwanted pregnancy, poverty, or distance. I encourage you to read more about girls’ education and Education For All here.
Plenary special guest speaker Mark Green marked (no pun intended) one of my favorite Conference moments of the IC. The former U.S. Congressman (R-WI) and Ambassador to Tanzania struck everyone with his compassionate yet pragmatic approach to global poverty/health, telling fascinating firsthand accounts of President George W. Bush’s visit to an AIDS clinic in Tanzania.
RESULTS Executive Director Joanne Carter’s keynote address highlighted the strides made against HIV, AIDS, TB, and Malaria and how much we will be able to do in partnership with the GAVI Alliance saying, “I truly believe we will look back and see the turnaround of these diseases as our generation’s landing a man on the moon.”
Monday was largely dedicated to the wisdom of Marian Wright Edelman, Founder/President of the Children’s Defense Fund who has dedicated her life to the disadvantaged, especially for education access for every child no matter his/her background. Though she humbly noted “It’s Monday; I’m not eloquent on Mondays,” she disproved this self-deprecation with a rousing plenary discussion that received a standing ovation. Notably she told IC attendees “We cannot leave this kind of world to our grandchildren,” encouraging everyone to reach out to members of Congress on behalf of global education access.
Tuesday began with the Lobby Day Kickoff on Capitol Hill with speakers Senator Brown (D-OH) and Senator Bennet (D-CO) setting the mood for ACTION grassroots teams to meet with their members of Congress to discuss legislation and support for global health, education, and poverty issues across the board. I personally sat in on a meeting with passionate Washington State ACTION grassroots members and Senator Cantwell (D-WA) (who forgave me for being the only native Nevadan in attendance) where they urged Sen. Cantwell to be the lead supporter of Education for All initiatives.
IC attendants left reinvigorated for the work they do and excited for the impact to come. As Joanne said, if this is our moon landing, we haven’t landed – we’re just orbiting.
That was my IC experience; I encourage others to share yours!