In this talk from TEDWomen 2010, Madeleine Albright (who I have had the pleasure to meet) stresses that it’s paramount for the progress of the world that women help women.
There is no question that there are a lot of successful girls and women in the world, but the thing I want to ask is: Are they using their success to help others? Perhaps more importantly, are they using their power to change the lives of girls around the world, especially ones that struggle with oppression? The short answer is some are, and some aren’t. I bring up the issue of women simply because they are said to be gaining more power especially at home in the work place as well as in politics globally. Consider the power of women at home for instance. According to this 2011 Wall Street Journal article, women control about 80% of spending on consumer products.
I think it’s important to ask the above question and to particularly challenge each other to discover our life’s purpose, especially if the god of success has visited us. To whom much is given, much is expected!
In past posts, I have talked about the world in which many women and girls live. From the recent gang rape in Ohio and Delhi, India that killed a woman, to the shooting of Malala Yousufzai, the 15-year-old girl in Pakistan whose only crime was to champion education for young girls. When in actual fact what she was doing was using her chivalrous personality to champion a human right and willing to actually die for it.
We should see her — a girl who was able to be brave and stand up for her beliefs even in the face of extreme obstacles — as a role model, especially when looking at the potential contribution that can be made by those girls and women who have been fortunate enough to grow up in a world of peace and blessings, be it financial or other. If you are one of them, my question to you this time around is how you perceive the world around you?
Are you invested in bettering the human condition? Or do you think someone else is responsible for its repair? Well, a quick answer here is no, you are not to wait around and rest on your laurels for admiration by others, rather, you are to use them as the very vessel through which the universe intends to heal the world! With your talents and skills, you are the one person who can do something about the ills of the human condition. Put aside any self-consciousness or apathy you may feel in order to take on the ultimate challenge of service to humankind. You know why, because it adds ecstasy to oneself.
Why am I so passionate about this? Because serving others will make you feel better about yourself. Giving back to humankind is said to heal the soul. In fact, psychologists have long speculated of the value of philanthropy as well as service.
So how do you use success to change the world?
First some quotes. Mother Teresa once said, “Let us not be satisfied with just giving money. Money is not enough, money can be got, but they need your hearts to love them. So, spread your love everywhere you go.” Need another one? Maya Angelou echoed a similar thought: “I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver.”
Most of us connect giving with money, and we see it as an expense we cannot afford. We forget too easily that money is not the only form of giving back to humanity. Rather as Mother Teresa posits, your passion to solve humankind’s problems is really the real form and description of success.
I challenge each one of you to find a passion and purpose in your life and use your skillset to give back. This will quintessentially define your success to others and to yourself. Don’t sit back and wait for someone else to intervene when you could. Not using your success, be it influence on the political scale, in the corporate world, at your church, school board, or as a village elder, is withholding a special gift from the world.
To illustrate this point, I have a short story to tell about a successful girl whom I see use her success to bring women’s issues to the forefront and better the world with her help.
In trying to understand the potential of women, my very good girl-friend and I (and she is just that for those of you who were wondering!) and executive at Babble, traveled with CARE USA to Africa to see the benefit of empowering women there. On a flight to the embattled northern Uganda (a place ravaged by Joseph Kony), we talked about the excitement of telling the story of CARE’s work to our friends.
When we got to northern Uganda, we witnessed both the ravages of war and the impact it had on women there. From rape victims to widows, the scenes we saw filled us with sorrow. But we also saw what the help of others did to change the lives of these women. With a small loan of just $50 -100, these women were starting small businesses and actually paying back their loans on time — something that I always have a problem doing as a new American! After the trip, we came back to the USA rejuvenated and ready to use our skillsets for the greatest impact in these women’s lives. I vowed to write about the plight of women as well as the success of women through the lens of a humble man, while my executive friend at Babble vowed to give both me and CARE a platform to voice the plight of these women around the world who suffer from institutional oppression.
So you see, you can use your skills and tool kits to influence the world around you. Find a cause this year and be its champion. You have the power to bring about change — try it this new year and I can guarantee you, your life will never be the same.
This article originally appeared in Babble.com on January 7, 2013. Reprinted with permission of the author.
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About Derreck Kayongo
Derreck Kayongo is a social entrepreneur and the founder of The Global Soap Project. An executive and development expert, Derreck Kayongo has more than 15 years experience developing strategic social campaigns within organizations for cause-related advocacy, public policy, issue management, and community organizing. His work has made a profound contribution in raising awareness aimed at realizing permanent solutions to global poverty.
Kayongo’s journey from child refugee to fearless visionary is filled with moments of inspiration (along with the benefits of good, old-fashioned sweat equity) that make him one of the most popular – and authentic – speakers on the circuit today. From Africa to Atlanta with nothing but a dream and tenacity, Kayongo beat the odds, earned an education, and has served in leadership roles in some of the world’s most respected non-governmental agencies (NGOs) since 1994. Today, he shares his vivacious spirit and invaluable experience in the areas entrepreneurship, environmental sustainability, global health, social justice and professional engagement with audiences in both the corporate and not-for-profit worlds.
Derreck Kayongo’s ability to motivate others to understand the role their work and skills can play in problem solving is one of the many reasons he was chosen as a finalist for the 2011 CNN Hero of the Year Award. Add to that the mantra of being a voice for the voiceless through his noble work of giving back, including dedicating his life to improving the lives of marginalized and vulnerable people across the globe: he has worked with the American Friends Service Committee as Program Director for the Southeast Peace Education program; joined Amnesty International as the Director of the Southeast Region; and currently serves as Senior Advocacy Coordinator for the Southeast region with CARE International.
In 2009, Kayongo and his wife Sarah embarked on a new journey pursuing their life-long passion of starting an NGO of their own. The Global Soap Project focuses on repurposing partially-used soap from hotels into new soap for needy populations, particularly in Africa. To date, The Global Soap Project has been able to donate 9,000 bars of soap to Swaziland, 5,000 bars to Kenya, 10,000 to Ghana, 1,000 to Uganda and another 3,000 to Haiti.
Derreck Kayongo is a proud naturalized U.S. citizen. He has been recognized as a 2011 CNN HEROES finalist and a COX Enterprise nominee; honored by Congressman John Lewis with a Certificate of Congressional Recognition; is currently writing his autobiography; has been featured in more than 20 news stories in the U.S., featured on Fox News as part of the Real American story series; featured on CNN with Fredricka Whitfield.
Since 1994, Derreck Kayongo has given more than 300 speeches on key issues related to poverty reduction in Africa; mainly on water and sanitation, soap, HIV/AIDS, Child Soldiers, Health and Sanitation, Impact of Landmines in Africa, Countries in Conflict and role of basic Education for Girls in Africa.