It was my privilege to join with hundreds of people from civil society, the corporate sector, and citizen advocates from all corners of United Stated, during the CARE National Conference (CNC2015) held in Washington DC on May 12-13. This year’s CARE conference was different, because of many reasons.
CARE marks its 70th anniversary this year and continues to create positive lasting impact among the lives of people, especially women and girls by connecting them with opportunities of quality education, economic empowerment, health and other human rights. There are millions of girls and women who have been impacted by CARE. During the journey of seven decades CARE has definitely faced resource constraints but a passionate team has always confronted the challenges and continued to create impact at a grass-roots level. That is what makes CARE a distinct poverty fighting organization.
Another very exciting segment which made this conference different was the Helene Gayle Development Symposium. Since this conference was Helene’s last conference as C.E.O, so she reflected on her tenure and acknowledged efforts of CARE staff, partners and communities who contributed in delivering the change. CARE touched new heights of excellence under the leadership of Helene Gayle. During the event, Helene mentioned that, “Investment in girls and women empowerment is not an option, it is an inevitable necessity”. In listening to Helene I was reminded of John C. Maxwell’s words : “Good leaders must communicate vision clearly, creatively, and continually. However, the vision doesn’t come alive until the leader models it”. She not only herself modeled CARE’s vision but motivated many to follow this path of excellence.
Success is always the result of intelligent planning, focused efforts, individuals’ determination and team work and I witnessed all this happening not only during the two days of the conference but at every step. From designing printed materials, to organizing seating arrangements, scheduling speakers or ensuring food preference, nothing was short of brilliant, which made this conference different and exciting for 278 people including myself.
The awesomeness of the l Conference extended to the second day when 200 CARE advocates, constituents of 41 states made their way to Capitol Hill and engaged with decision makers. Advocating for International Violence against Women Act 2015, Global Food Security Act 2015 and Improving Maternal Newborn and Child health around the globe, on Capitol Hill with Congressmen and Senators was an interesting experience for me. I was able to see one of the positive aspects of the US Political system and learn from it. It is a totally different experience for those who are used to lobbying with politicians of countries where democracy is not much nurtured (even finding them in their offices is a problem), making them understand the developmental agenda and seeking their buy-in for presenting and supporting the legislation.
The real treat was, that in addition to a luncheon at US Senate dining room and dinner with the world’s best leaders, we also were able to listen vibrant speakers such as Congressman John Robert Lewis, a major civil rights leader and US Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Mathews Burwell. We also heard from celebrities such as Chef Victor Albisu and Pulitzer Prize winners Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn. We were also inspired by Carina Nicolas Zamora, a Peruvian activist who received a CARE aware for advancing women’s rights in her community. They all brought unique perspectives to bring an end to gender based violence, hunger and global health issues