I partied with UN Week, and UN Week won

Eight days ago I hopped on a plane headed for New York City. As usual, I procrastinated the packing portion of the program and almost left the house without an adequate amount of panties for the trip. I can see that conversation now: Hey, Christy. Is there a Walgreens nearby? I need to pick up some, um… ibuprofen. You have ibuprofen? That’s kind of you, but I don’t want you to run out of it. You don’t mind? Well, in that case, have you got any extra underwear?

And then she’d be like, DEAR GOD, I forgot you were a BLOGGER.

Monday morning we attended a breakfast held by the White Ribbon Alliance at the WIE Symposium called Wake Up Call for Women and Newborns of the World, an event hosted by Donna Karan, Sarah Brown (wife of Gordon Brown, former prime minister of the UK, and no, when I met her I didn’t ask her if she listened to Oasis ALTHOUGH I WAS SORELY TEMPTED ["you're my wonderwall..."]), and Arianna Huffington. I know, right? Thank god I remembered my underwear!

All three women talked about the issue of global maternal health, and then we heard from two midwives and an OB representing various challenges they face in their own countries of Bangladesh, Tanzania, and Kenya. Their stories took me right back to that village in Narshingdhi, Bangladesh where we met with pregnant women who face a minimum hour’s ride on the back of a rickshaw if they need medical attention.

Those of us who have access to adequate care and options when it comes to pregnancy and delivery need to remember and remember often that pregnancy in many parts of the world is a potentially fatal condition.

Afterward I joined Christy and four other mothers on a panel about our role as mothers in the fight for social good. Is there something about being a mother that makes us want to be more involved in making the world a better place? And the obvious answer is yes, of course, we’d like the earth to be around when our children are adults, and maybe even a polar bear or two?

But the deeper conversation revolved around how we nurture, and as women are we better at it? And can we even ask that question out loud without setting back feminism about forty years? The best thing to come out of the dialogue is the idea that many of us who are mothers do not solely identify as mothers, full stop. We are informed by this experience, yes. We are in many ways fueled by it, but it is okay for us to identify as a multitude of other roles. Just as it is okay for a woman to identify solely as a mother. There is room enough: the conversation again came back to options.

A few hours later Christy and I spoke to an audience gathered at the Social Good Summit at 92nd Street Y about our experiences in Bangladesh and how the two of us connected. I think I may have mentioned that when she reached out to me on Twitter and I showed it to Jon he said, “From now on you can talk about my vasectomy all you want AND I WON’T CARE.”

The main point I wanted to make during this specific conversation was the storytelling aspect of what she did with her film and what bloggers do with their websites, and that by connecting the two we can amplify a message tenfold. Yes, bloggers are navel gazers and OH MY GOD, SHE ASKED FOR FREE SHINGLES?!

But I read blogs for the stories, for the connection I feel for the characters, and if we can use our platforms to put a face to an issue, think about the impact this could have on activism. On aid. The potential is phenomenal.

Social media makes it so that your ten friends who have ten friends who have ten friends will hear a message.

From there we gathered for a five-mile sunset run along the Hudson with a few other members of the Every Mother Counts team who are training for the NYC marathon. Let’s just say I need to up my pace a bit, although COME ON. They’ve been training for a few more weeks than I have, so I was proud I didn’t stop at mile two when I saw a hot dog cart.

The following two days were a flurry of meetings and more meetings and getting to hear Christy speak and learning everything I could in the process.

We attended a UN meeting for Every Woman, Every Child that began with remarks by Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and continued with talks by the Prime Minister of Norway, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, the President of Tanzania, and the Prime Minister of Canada, all who spoke to how they would focus and be accountable for that focus on the issue of maternal health.

From there we attended a party for this initiative attended by such a huge number of dignitaries and CEOs and presidents that at the end of the evening when Deepak Chopra introduced 50 Cent I had already fallen off of four different chairs.

50 Cent’s speech was deeply touching (I’m not joking), and he brought the somewhat rowdy audience to a sudden stillness as he talked about the death of his mother, surviving nine gun shot wounds, and how he wants his legacy to be about his success showing him how important it is for him to give back, forget the award shows and the music videos. He made a huge commitment to work with the World Food Programme, and standing there in front of that audience, he said, was one of the biggest honors of his life because he could count himself among those who are trying to make a difference.

I am trying to be able to say the same thing.

  • uvula_envy

    Congrats on a great week.

    Who is the guy on the far right of your Every Mother Counts t-shirt photo? He looks familiar and am not sure why.

    I was hoping to see you run the marathon, but I am actually out of town that weekend.

    Good luck!

  • Heather_O

    Wow. Just….wow.

    Is it condescending to say, I’m proud of you?
    Too bad, because I’m proud of you.

  • WiseMona

    I think that women might be better at nurturing, but in no way does this set us back 40 years. It is empowering. I married a guy that was never nurtured or hugged a day of his life. We have been together 16 years and now he is a better nurturer than I. (I am a great teacher)
    Women can be all that they want to be. Nurturing your children and your partner is essential to building strong relationships with your loved ones.

  • ChickWhitt

    That was beautiful, but I just keep thinking, she would buy her underwear at WALGREENS?!?!?! You wouldn’t find a Gap to get some undies at??????

  • ScooterMarie

    Very awesome.

    And you are able to say that, too.

  • malisams

    anybody all upset about you using your fame to get discounted shingles (SHINGLES!!!) can suck it long and hard, because that same fame has made you a part of something important and impactful, and anyone with half a brain can see which means more to you. also, the 50 cent part? not gonna lie. i kinda teared up there.

    congratulations. keep up the good work. and thank you.

  • The Dalai Mama

    Awesome Heather. You really do show that everyone can make a difference. Our platforms, regardless of the size, are powerful.

  • Norabloom

    Sounds like an incredible experience.

    @ChickWhitt – no shame in Walgreen’s undies. They even carry Hanes (discovered after working all night and deciding that even though I was unshowered and wearing yesterday’s clothes, I would at least have on clean underwear).

  • WindyLou

    Be very glad you didn’t have to buy emergency panties at walgreens. I had to once. I’ve never forgotten to pack my underwear again.

    What a wild ride – thanks for sharing it with the rest of us!

  • annalitchka

    Heather_O, I don’t think it’s condescending to say that you’re proud of Heather (Heather Armstrong, that is).

    However, I don’t think that you have standing to be proud of someone that you didn’t have anything to do with. You’re proud of things you did or people you raised or taught or otherwise influenced. IMHO, you ADMIRE people that you didn’t raise or teach or otherwise influence, instead of being PROUD of them. However, it’s only my very humble opinion.

    And Heather A., I sure do admire you!

  • Larkspur

    This is some good work, Heather.

    Now, do not neglect the fundraising and awareness-raising possibilities in using Chuck as a spokesmodel. For example, you can put “Every Mother Counts” on every modesty patch, and if you haven’t already made up the 2012 Chuck calendar, at least one photo should show him in a Every Mother Every Child t-shirt. The others can show him balancing, chewing on, playing with, or adjacent to some sort of logo.

    As far as nurturing, I do not know, since I never had babies, but please remember that there are plenty of us Aunties out here for whom every mother and every child is vitally important.

    Finally, the big question: I think I already know the answer, but have you ever seen Christy looking not good? Because I imagine her hungry, tired, overheated, grumpy face is still kinda beautiful.

  • Reem

    Everybody has a voice, on here Heather yours is comes through dooce. I’m so glad I discovered your site. It has inspired me in many ways. And it always great when people don’t judge 50cent because the man got some sense, along with know how to shoot and automatic weapon

  • oldladymac

    Heather, count me as one more who admires your unending energy and work to help our little planet and the peeps who live on it. Frankly, free shingles are least that should be bestowed on you, keep up the good karma Dooce!

  • kappadarling

    I think what you are doing is amazing. I think name dropping Christy Turlington every chance you get is not…

  • AlisonG

    You make me more aware of the world outside my own little one, and how my ability to make a difference is so much bigger than my own circle at arm’s reach. One voice, each and every voice, can make such a difference. Thank you for sharing yours and making a difference in mine through inspiring me to make a difference in the lives of others. Good work, Heather.

  • Anu

    Seems like an amazing weekend Heather! Thanks for bringing attention to such an important but often forgotten cause. Will be nice to know a little bit more about the other amazing people in the ‘every mother counts’ team and their contributions as well.

  • jenwilson

    Wow. What an incredible trip. Literally and figuratively. You ARE making a difference – you were before you got involved in this maternal health thing, and you will for many years to come. I know it.

  • Larkspur

    kappadarling @14, when you are working with Christy Turlington, like working with her, side by side, on trips and conferences and events and stuff, you are not name-dropping, you are talking about your day on the job. I do not find that problematic.

  • Cosmo3807

    What Larkspur said.

  • dykewife

    if you believe a word that came out of stephen harper’s mouth i have some land in florida you might want to buy. it has a slight drainage problem but the long, green, scaly neighbours are very friendly.

    seriously, stephen harper has done more to damage the status of women in canada than anyone could possibly ideate. he’s dismantled status of women canada to the point where it’s totally useless.

    no, if stephen harper spoke about maternal health, he was blowing air up your skirt.

  • Scott-5×5

    Excellent, excellent. You’re a damn fine human being.

  • sherylwx4

    What has been built in Bangladesh for the women in the last year? I wonder in situations like this, How much $$$ is spent on all the seminars, travel, trips, conferences, and hype vs’ how much is being spent on the fixing of these problems…I realize you have to put problems “out there” in order to get attention but it seems like there could have been many clinics, prenatals, exams, vaccines, and education given for the PR costs thus far …
    This is a deep rooted cultural problem. It will take generations to fix, if it is fixable at all… IMO it would be more helpful to throw the money at fixing more and publisizing less. I have a feeling that the people that are helping this already know about this and the promoting of it via blogs isn’t going to bring in extra $ for the cause. If Every Women COunts wants real results they are going to have to put every single dime into building and doing and Christy needs to hoope she can get a great big Multi Million dollar Corporate sponsership- which is doubtful since this is a cultural problem and corporations usually are not interested in fighting a fight against cultures…

  • Lauren3

    Fuck yeah, H-dawg. You are doing it. I think you are using your talents in the best way someone in your position can. Admiration… I has it.

    I want you to know I’m having a big hearty shake of the head whenever someone pops up here with a naysay. How sad for them. If only they could divert that energy into doing something that would make them (and others, if they so choose)happy.

  • Lauren3

    PS– did you see the surfing dogs picture yet that The Internet has been passing around? TELL ME YOU SAW THE DOGGSSSSSSS… http://www.buzzfeed.com/mjs538/the-best-picture-from-the-2011-surfing-dog-competi

  • Norabloom

    @sherylwx4 How do you figure that lack of prenatal health care in developing countries is strictly a “cultural problem”? Seems to me that it’s much more of an economic problem, i.e, impoverished women lacking access to clinics, doctors and midwives.

  • sherylwx4

    Having been there a few times doing work, most of the problems seem to stem from the thinking of the men… Men are the “almighty power” in that culture,THE decision makers, and give the women no respect, or power of their own. It is a very very deep, ingrained part of their culture. If the women totally disagrees with the man, she is “taught” to do what the man says anyway… This is a culture that used to throw themselves into fires when their husbands died because they felt they had no “power” or inner voice without men. Hence my thinking it is more of a cultural problem. Can cultures change, yes, EXTREMELY slowly….Like over many generations . There are no doubt a monetary problems, but getting past the culture is what is so much harder in my mind and it won’t be American models or bloggers that will change that. That is why I say that they should use the money in the short term to fix and allivieate the problem, but work on the culture from the inside through their own heads of church and beliefs systems.

  • kristanhoffman

    The part about 50 Cent is what brought me to tears (not joking).

    I loved the photos and the quiet, unassuming narration of this post. You have a great sense of humor, but I like when you put it away sometimes too. Especially when it works as well as it does here.

    Thank you for sharing your experience, and for contributing your time and your voice to a good cause.

  • dooce

    @sherylwx4 I understand and appreciate your point. We saw the patriarchal nature of the system in Bangladesh and how it holds back progress for girls and women. But we also saw systems that had changed things. We visited a village that was empowering girls to start their own businesses, and in doing so their fathers saw how this could help the whole family and then encouraged those girls to continue their work.

    We saw actual change.

    Attention needs to be heaped on that program so that it can be rolled out to many more communities, and all this publicity is raising that awareness AND raising money. I can’t get into specifics, but all those meetings I mentioned were with corporations who have set aside millions and millions of dollars to causes like this, and they need organizations like Christy’s to point them in the right direction.

  • sherylwx4

    Good luck with that Heather. I mean that with no snarky undertone. I’ve been working for 20 years now going between 5 different countries and 3 different cultures. I’ve seen a lot of models, actors, and CEOs come and go because they hyped things up for too long- YES, that IS possible. I hope something sticks with this because women SHOULDN’T die in childbirth…. One thing I can promise you though is that those men, are reaping the benefits of the womens jobs- but they STILL don’t believe wome have a place except beneath them. It’s a culture thing, it’ll take a long time to “get right” . Many of these organizations go in and give up after 3-7 years. I hope EWC can make a direct impact soon enough while it counts. Strike while the pan is hot is very important in these situations. I hope EMC doesn’t let the subject become numb by too much hype – kind of like the thousands of good intentioned programs in Africa and India .

    Also it would be really nice to hear about what they are actually doing… WHY would a charity not have that on their site ? If they are trying to raise $ and awareness they need to be transparent in what they are trying to accomplish exactly.

  • BrigidS

    I’m glad to see sherylwx4′s thoughts, and Heather’s response too, as I also struggle with what sherylwx4 writes. I’ve been in the nonprofit/philanthropy field for a long time, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult for me to see how another speech by another celebrity actually translates into measurable change for good.

    I also had trouble figuring out from the website exactly what it is that EWC does in terms of programs. Heather if you have extra insight in terms of “boots on ground” stuff, that’d make me more inclined to support them.

    The bottom line is always the impact on the beneficiaries, here the women and children. If we truly want to do good we can’t permit “awareness” to be good enough – we must insist that this is only a means to an end: clear, end-of-the-day results for the beneficiaries.

  • tallnoe

    As an aside, are they all done with the construction at the UN? It seemed like it was going to be an amazing upgrade!

  • mommica

    You totally deserve free SHINGLES!

    Also? 50 Cent apparently just signed on to play a pimp in a movie about a (real life) serial killer in Alaska. True story.

    http://community.adn.com/?q=adn/node/158089

  • dooce

    @tallnoe no, the construction is still going on. It was chaos.

    @BrigidS Christy’s organization began as a way to carry on the awareness she hoped to generate through her film “No Woman, No Cry.” After the film was released she hired Erin Thornton as an Executive Director. Erin worked with the One campaign for over 10 years and has been associated with activism in DC for the last 15 years. Those are the only two people operating within her organization, although they are looking for a Director of Social Media.

    They both see a need to make maternal mortality a more focused issue rather than one of many that a charity addresses, so they hope to set up a fund that will go directly to programs dedicated to impoverished mothers. There isn’t one charity out there or one fund that addresses only this issue, so the two of them are going to make it happen. Merck just announced it’s dedicating 500 million dollars to this issue, and one of our meetings was to see how the they could work best with Every Mother Counts.

    Her organization is still in its infancy, and Christy has up to this point funded the entire thing herself. So this isn’t a celebrity trying to work up a good soundbite. This is her life now.

    And you can go on and on that change can’t happen, but in Bangladesh the programs that we witnessed have helped to decrease maternal mortality by a whopping 40% in the last ten years. That’s an incredible number. However, those programs have to be funded. Enter: what Christy is trying to do.

    And if Christy or another celebrity can stand in front of an audience that includes members of corporations who can fund that kind of change, I don’t think it’s a waste of time or resources.

  • shelly819

    From the Smithsonian…
    “50 Cent got shot and still whines about it on stage. Teddy Roosevelt got shot midspeech and didn’t leave the stage until he finished.”

    No respect for 50 cent. Getting shot over drug deals gone bad, is not a badge of honor! Why would anyone want to use him as a spokesperson?

  • mybottlesup

    YES!!! beautiful work. reading this gives me chills because not only is there SUCH a need, but there is something being done to promote FORWARD progress for social change… social justice. it is noble. i love reading your updates on this. LOVE IT.

  • BrigidS

    Thanks, Heather, for the extry info. I am def impressed that Christy followed up on her movie to make this her full time (or even most time) work now – that is an unusual move for any person, much less a celebrity. Kudos to her.

    Support for international aid tends to veer to the extreme ends of emotion: gushy-awesome or snarky-disbelief. Patient explanation like you’ve done here is rare, and something anyone in or out of the field deeply appreciates. So kudos to you as well.

  • Laura Jones

    I’m proud of you and impressed that you are doing this.

  • LillyO

    I don’t have kids, but feel the need to try to make the world a better place for future generations, also. I mention this because I am a woman and have often wondered if it goes to the “nurturing” aspect? Like, “heck, I don’t have a nest, so move over and let me fluff yours???”

    Thank you for putting yourself out there, despite the cotton-headed-ninny-muggin-naysayers! I agree, you just reached at least one more person with your message than you would have!