Women have always been connectors. We trot over with cookies to welcome the new neighbor, obsessively form book clubs, we keep in touch. But some women like Nancy Hunt are taking women’s gift for connectivity to a whole new level. It’s not about six degrees of separation in the world anymore – it’s about zero degrees. Check this out.
Once upon a time a beautiful, accomplished blonde woman met a handsome, famous music producer who wrote one of the most beloved celebration songs of all time: We Are Family. Nancy and Nile fell in love and lived happily ever after …until 9/11 when Nancy & Nile said, “Hey, we need to do something.” So they created the We Are Family Foundation to promote global peace and understanding. Then Nancy saw Mattie J.T. Stepanek on Larry King and said, “We need to be making sure human needs are met, so that peace is possible.” So they started Three Dot Dash (which means “peace” in Morse code) with Global Teen Leaders they could bring together, encourage, mentor and support.
And that’s where Nancy met Mitchel Odiaka, an 18-year old from Nigeria who was going to be married as a traditional child-bride at the age of 12– until she stood up and said, “I don’t think so.” She convinced her parents not to make her marry for the obvious reasons: child-brides are promised at birth to men who pay their bride price, married at twelve, have children as mere adolescents, suffer fistulas and other disastrous health consequences, lose their ability to finish school, etc. etc.
Mitchel was so persuasive, she not only convinced her parents not to make her marry, she started an entire movement to challenge child-bride arrangements: AGENDA, or African Girl-Child Education Nurturing and Developing Action. Organizing road walks, rallies, seminars and community outreach, Mitchel and her empowered peers have visited 11 Nigerian states and influenced close to 23,000 girls to challenge this tradition. And most important, they’ve helped convince the government to put a stay on these types of arranged marriages.
For her activism, Mitchel was invited to the Three Dot Dash Just Peace Summit this March in New York City, was interviewed by CNN, and became fast friends with Nancy. It was only as she was leaving NYC that Mitchel confided to Nancy that her dad had lost his job in Nigeria and she would not be able to start college. The family simply couldn’t afford it.
So Nancy tapped into the new, new thing. She reached out to her network of 30 girlfriends: among them a rock star, former head of a modeling agency, stay-at-home mum of three boys, actress, creator of a famous children’s character, art teacher, retired teacher, and me –and invited us to chip in $100 apiece to send Mitchel to college for a year. And in five days, she had the $3,000 to send to The University of Nigeria for Mitchel’s tuition, room and board.
This is Global GirlFriend Power, in action! From girls in Nigeria to women in Pakistan to grandmas in Peru to rock stars in Tribeca, women are reaching out across boundaries, languages and miles to help each other– and bringing all our girlfriends along with us. So grab your BFFs, find a cause, and make something good happen. We are connected and we are committed because we know… (everybody now!) We Are Family.