Last week I had the honor of attending the third annual Moms + Social Good in New York City, an event co-hosted by the United Nations Foundation and Johnson & Johnson. What is this Moms + Social Good? It’s about moms helping moms, here in the US and elsewhere. This year more than three hundred fifty mothers, experts and change-makers gathered to share ideas and inspiration for solving some of the greatest challenges facing women and children today, including poverty, access to life-saving vaccines and infant mortality.
A remarkable line-up of people and programs took to the stage to tell how they were making a difference and more often than not why they took action. They told their personal stories, they told of their work, dreams and obstacles. Speakers included US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power, Carolyn Miles of Save The Children, economist Jeffrey Sachs, Parenting Magazine Editor-in-Chief Dana Points, and Jackie Bezos, President of the Bezos Family Foundation. Celebrities included actress and UNDP Goodwill Ambassador Connie Britton (aka the beloved Tammy Taylor from Friday Night Lights fame), actress and Save The Children Ambassador Jennifer Garner and Jessica Seinfeld, cookbook author and founder of Baby Buggy.
|Jennifer Garner: UN Foundation|
Jennifer Garner opened up the event. In her spare time from acting and raising 3 kids, Garner works as an Artist Ambassador for Save The Children. She’s advocated for families on Capitol Hill and also visited children in their homes who participate in reading programs back in her home state of West Virginia. She’s passionate about raising families out of poverty. Her own mother, born poor in West Virginia, instilled in her daughters the value of reading and education. My own mother born and raised in a coal-mining town deep in the mountains of West Virginia, I couldn’t help but be moved by her story.
There were plenty of grim stories and statistics through out the day. Over 6 million children around the world die each year before their fifth birthday. Millions of women still go without pre-natal care. HIV/AIDS infections, thought decreasing in many populations, are now rising among adolescent and teen girls. Women, mothers in particular, lag far behind their male peers in positions of power. Of the top 160 corporate, political and educational leaders in the US, a mere 14.3% are mothers, compared to 76.2% who are fathers (see the Motherhood+PublicPower Index).
There are some bright spots. Ambassador Power, a mother of two no less, admitted it’s easy to lose sight of progress given all the violence and disease. She noted though that more girls than ever go to school, 3 million girls are now in school in Afghanistan. Before 9/11, she said, that number was zero. Personally, the Ambassador was the highlight of the event for me for the second year in a row. An affable, witty and I have to assume cool mom in the best sense, she was frank about her time away from her kids and the effect her travels and urgent work had and will continue to have on them. Her 6-year old son asked for another child to have an embargo. Not a time out. Dealing with children in devastating war-torn condition has given the Ambassador a unique perspective on parenting here in the US. Her kids will be just fine, even if on some nights their mom can only read half of the usual books at bedtime.
|Protecting Our Tomorrows: Anne Geddes|
Photographer Anne Geddes spoke movingly about her commitment to saving babies and children from abuse and disease. For me, she was the other true highlight. Although she’s known for photographing adorable babies, it’s her humanity and compassion that I will remember. If you haven’t seen her achingly beautiful portraits of child and young adult survivors of bacterial meningitis, do yourself a favor and check out her Protecting Our Tomorrows series. I could write on and on about the risks of childhood diseases and you’d be bored to tears. One look at the ballerina fairy princess without arms and legs and you will think twice the next time you hear about vaccines.
The New York event kicked off the annual Global Moms Relay, a global conversation among mothers and their friends to create change. From just before Mother’s Day through Father’s Day (May 1-June 19, 2015), each day a celebrity, community leader, or everyday mom and dad will share a personal story on the kind of future they want for their family and the world, and then “pass the baton” to the next contributor. Each time you share one of these posts via social media, Johnson & Johnson will donate $1 (per action) to help improve the health and well-being of moms and kids worldwide through the Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action (MAMA), Shot@Life, Girl Up and UNICEF. For more information, visit http://www.GlobalMomsRelay.org
You can watch the Moms+Social Good event here too.