Note: I was selected to be a 2015 Social Good Summit Blogger Fellow for the United Nations Association; I attended the summit during U.N. Week in New York City and wrote on the issues presented. This blog post was originally published on GenUN.
The 2015 Social Good Summit had no shortage of intelligent people doing important work related to the 2015 Sustainable Development Goals. However, some of the most powerful speakers were women who are trailblazers in their fields and fierce advocates for the communities they serve. Whether you care most about eradicating poverty and hunger, ensuring environmental sustainability, improving maternal health, or any of the other SDGs, there are always strong female leaders making strides in those areas. Though this list only scratches the surface, here are five inspirational women from the Social Good Summit to follow.
- Leila Janah
Leila Janah is a prime example of entrepreneurship with a social conscience. She is the Founder and CEO of Samasource, a nonprofit social business that gives digital work to impoverished people globally. Speaking on the “Tech Disruptions for a Sustainable Future” panel, she emphasized the importance of dignified work for the world’s poor and using access to technology to empower and connect people to that dignified work.
Quote: “Technology is amoral, it doesn’t have a view…it’s infrastructure. It is up to us to use it to widen our circle of empathy. It’s about now seeing someone on the other side of the world that we can relate to just like we relate to our neighbor and feeling the same level of moral commitment to that person that we feel to those immediately around us. That’s what the global goals are about and I think technology facilitates that beautifully, but we have to make it so.”
- Black Mambas
The Black Mamba Anti-Poaching Unit has gained wide attention for its dangerous work patrolling the Balule Nature Reserve to protect wildlife from poachers. They are remarkable not only for their bravery, but also for the fact that the majority of the teams are comprised of women. The Black Mambas were named 2015 Champions of the Earth, the top United Nations Environment Program award. Black Mamba Collet Ngobeni spoke on the “Champions of the Earth” panel and another Black Mamba helped to open the summit.
Quote: “Everywhere we look, the degradation of our natural environment is under way. An estimated 18 million hectares of forest are lost each year. Poaching, deforestation, droughts, floods, and more continue to haunt our ecosystem.”
- Ashley Judd
Ashley Judd is a longtime advocate for women and girls. She spoke on the “Planning Her Own Path” panel which focused on women’s access to family planning options. She is currently an ambassador for PSI, a global health organization, and a former board member. As well-versed on the facts as she was, her experience as a sexual assault and incest survivor allowed her to bring a unique sense of personal and spiritual purpose to the discussion. Even fellow panelist Babatunde Osotimehin, impressive in his own right, seemed to be inspired.
Quote: “This really has to start with my self-empowerment…I cannot transmit that which I do not have. And when I take radical responsibility for myself and my own growth, that’s then what I’m able to bring to the world. And I find that thing that irks me the most and troubles me the most and that is where my light will shine most brightly because there’s been that alchemy from hurting to healing to helping.”
- Lara Logan
The fact that Lara Logan wasn’t actually a panel speaker didn’t stop her from contributing to some of the best discussions of the summit. She moderated two panels: “Refugees: The Route to Resettlement” and “Social Media is the New First Responder.” Logan, an award-winning reporter and Chief Foreign Correspondent for CBS News, engaged the panelists like the seasoned journalist she is and brought her years of international experience to the conversations.
Quote: “We’re focused on Syria right now…I just came back from Iraq and people are pouring out of Iraq for the same reason and there’s no special pass for them. And I have to say don’t forget the Africans because they’ve been struggling for years and nobody wants them.”
- Laverne Cox
Orange is the New Black actress Laverne Cox has become one of the most recognizable advocates for transgender rights by bringing trans issues to the mainstream. The panel she moderated addressed the need for all gender identities to be included in data collection. Currently, this is not happening and these gaps prevent the delivery of social services among other adverse effects. Always a passionate speaker, Cox used her voice once again to bring trans issues to the international stage.
Quote: “What message are we sending to young people who are gender nonconforming when we don’t even count them, when we suggest that their identities and their lives don’t matter?”