The Spirit of Sisterhood Relay - Huffington Post

March 21, 2013

Today is Mother's Day across the Arab world, so this baton goes out to every Arab mom, grandmother, and guardian.

They are the selfless women who love their children in ways they never knew possible and sacrifice so much for their happiness.

They are the tireless women who work so hard to give their children opportunities they never had and instill in them the confidence to try new pursuits. They are the compassionate women who teach their children values so that they grow up as kind and engaged citizens.

With this baton comes a message of gratitude and respect for all that they do, every day, to nurture a healthy, happy and creative generation of children. Especially now.

In the last few years, we've witnessed seismic shifts in the political, economic and social landscape of the Middle East and North Africa.

Through it all, Arab women did what women everywhere do best: they multi-tasked. They raised their voices and joined the call for reform; they cared for their families in testing circumstances and they opened their doors to those in need. Women helped men.

Women helped women. And, as the dust settles in many countries, women are critical to the urgent process of rebuilding.
Just as the Arab world is at a crossroads, so too are Arab women -- and the success of the former depends on the participation of the latter. This is a unique opportunity for all of us, especially men, to leverage the potential of women; to re-imagine the possibilities for our shared prosperity and to encourage positive change.

There's never been a better time.

Today, as a result of sustained investment, women in the Middle East and North Africa region are healthier and far better educated than ever before. They outnumber men at university. Sadly, though, that success does not yet translate to the job market, so nations are not reaping the rewards of that investment. A new report by the World Bank concludes that women are hampered by legal and social factors. In other words, it's a question of changing mindsets.

That's why it's important that the girls and young women of our region have strong female role models: women who successfully juggle the demands of a career and the demands of motherhood. One of the best things about my job is that I meet such women every week.

In January, for example, in Amman, I met an impressive group of female professors, lecturers and teachers at the University of Jordan. They spoke of their determination to encourage a new generation of girls to embrace further education and apply it in the workplace even as they find fulfillment as wives and mothers.

A few weeks ago, in The Ankara Olgunlaşma Institute in Turkey, I was privileged to watch older women patiently teach young girls skills and crafts from the Ottoman era. Together, they produced traditional clothes, handicrafts and jewelry to preserve the beauty of the Ottoman culture for future generations.

Whether it's mothers to daughters, professors to students... or mentors to mentees, women are uniquely placed to help each other succeed. We know how it feels to receive praise for a job well done... how our hearts lurch when our children cry... how important it is to be a loving wife and supporter. And we know exactly what to do or what to say to help each other through the tough times.

That spirit of sisterhood and camaraderie underpins two initiatives that I'm proud to support.

I hope that you'll take the time to watch 10x10's new production, Girl Rising, an innovative global campaign to educate girls. In it, nine courageous girls tell moving personal stories of how they overcame adversity. The details differ; the countries change; but they share the conviction that education breaks cycles of poverty and sets girls on the path to prosperity.

Please also check out the United Nations Foundation's Girl Up campaign. It encourages girls to become global leaders and raise awareness and funds for United Nations programs that help some of the world's 600 million adolescent girls. Girls who are denied access to basic healthcare or who live in fear of violence or who have to sacrifice school work for house work.

Each time you share this Global Mom Relay piece on Facebook, Twitter, or Email, or donate $5 or more through clicking on the above graphic, a $5 donation (up to $62,500 per week or $125,000 every two weeks) will be donated by Johnson & Johnson and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to Girl Up. Join us by sharing it forward and unlock the potential for women and children around the globe.

For more information, visit The United Nations Foundation, Johnson & Johnson, BabyCenter, The Huffington Post, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation created the Global Mom Relay, a first-of-its-kind virtual relay with a goal of improving the lives of women and children around the globe.