One billion women in the world do not have access to a toilet.
That's the most shocking fact I learned while attending Moms+ Social Good, an event hosted by the United Nations Foundation, Johnson & Johnson, BabyCenter, and The Huffington Post. The purpose of the event, part of their Global Moms Challenge, was to share stories of motherhood to inspire action to help improve the lives of mothers and children all over the world. One of the speakers was Leith Greenslade, the vice chair of the office of the U.N. Special Envoy for Financing the Health MDGs. MDGs are millennium development goals, and there are eight that have been designated by the U.N., with the hope of achieving them by 2015. Greenslade said that the ones in which the least progress has been made most directly affect mothers and children. These include MDG #4: Reduce child mortality, and #5: Improve maternal health. With only 601 days left until the MDG deadline, tremendous strides on those fronts don't seem likely. But then Greenslade galvanized the crowd with this: "Moms need to get involved in the post-MDG agenda. We can get it right this time."
She doesn't believe things for women and children will significantly improve until there are more mothers in positions of power. She dug around to find out how many mothers currently hold powerful positions. The numbers are discouraging, if unsurprising:
Of the 50 most powerful companies in the world, only 3 are run by moms.
Of the 50 countries with the most powerful economies in the world, only 7 are run by moms.
Of the 50 most influential U.N. agencies, only 9 are run by moms.
Now here's where it gets inspiring. Greenslade issued a challenge: Why don't we aim for 20 by 2020? As in, at least 20 moms in each of the above categories? (By the way, there is a similar campaign in the works, called 2020 Women on Boards, aimed to increase the percentage of women on U.S. company boards to at least 20 percent by 2020.) She proposes calling it the "Moms Power Index," and tracking it every year. Her final thoughts on the matter: "We need to associate motherhood with positions of power." At this point, there was a palpable electricity in the air.
So how can we make that happen? Speaking for myself, I probably won't be going on to run a company, or a country (economically powerful or otherwise), or a U.N. agency in the next six years (and quite possibly ever). But I can support the moms in my circle and my community who may. I can pay more attention to the mothers involved in my local government, because of course it all has to start somewhere. I can continue to encourage my two young daughters that they can and should follow any path they choose to when they grow up, no matter how lofty (the saying in our house: "You can be anything you want to be, except a boy"). And I bet you can do those things, too.
Photo via Anton_Ivanov / Shutterstock.com.