Dare to Care: Jennifer Lonergan Presents at TED x Montreal Women
In May of this year, Artistri Sud’s Executive Director and Founder, Jennifer Lonergan presented at TEDx MontrealWomen. The conference featured many of Montreal’s most prominent women speaking out about issues dear to their hearts in an effort to educate, inspire and empower and served as a model of women helping women. Jennifer Lonergan spoke about Artistri Sud’s mission–female economic empowerment–and invited participants to get involved in making a difference.
Jennifer’s talk was inspiring and deeply personal, getting to the core of women helping women. Artistri Sud has come a long way from where it began in 2009, and Jennifer described this journey. She spoke about what drew her to quit her job and launch an NGO (now a registered charity) to support women’s economic empowerment, and the challenges and rewards of doing so. She spoke of the women she met, and the lives that were touched—including her own. Finally, she challenged the audience to “dare to care.”
Below is an excerpt from her talk. The full talk is available in the video above.
Jennifer’s TED Talk
“I met Flora in 2012. I was doing a needs assessment in the highlands of Zimbabwe and I spent about a week with a group of women artisans, and Flora was one of them. After a few days I asked her if she’d be willing to sit down with me and answer a few questions. There were 66, in fact. She didn’t know that, so she agreed.
Flora has four kids and lives in a rural area where she and her family survive on subsistence farming. Flora has one teenaged daughter. She’s trying desperately to keep her in boarding school. Boarding school? This seemed sort of unnecessarily luxurious to me, so I asked her about it. Turns out that if you have a teenage daughter away from home at a boarding school, it’s the one sure-fire way she will study and graduate instead of fetching water and firewood, cooking for her brothers, working in the fields, and doing every other important but menial chore that girls do because that’s their value. That’s the resource they are.
Boarding school also saves Flora’s daughter form the reality of a regular day school, which involves leaving late in the morning after helping with the chores, walking 45 minutes to and from school, only getting home close to dark, and having to help with more chores, finally only being able to sit down to study late at night, by the light of paraffin candles which will slowly, surely, destroy her lungs. And by then, she’s too tired to learn much anyway.
And as an added bonus, boarding school means that she’s not very likely to get married and have kids as a barely pubescent child herself. Mostly it seems because she’s out of sight, out of mind. And so, Flora struggles. To keep her daughter in school. To keep herself and her three other kids fed. To manager her husband’s farm, to which she has no legal claim and never will.
All so that she and her family can survive for years to come.
Sadly, Flora is not alone. The vast majority of the world’s poor are women. The women are also among those considered extremely poor. In fact, they’re the majority of those considered extremely poor. They’re often single parents. For many, malnourishment, famine, no access to water are all daily realities. And often, they’re legally prevented from owning land and so from building wealth and resilience.
It’s now widely accepted that when women are empowered, and here I’ll talk about economic empowerment, which is associated with other types of empowerment and leadership. When women are empowered, there are positive long-term impacts in many of these areas- life expectancy increases, HIV transmission is reduced, maternal mortality is reduced. Even GDP increases. And I could go on, but you get the point.
The point is that when you invest on women, you get a bigger return on your investment.”
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