Nobel Women’s Initiative Series: Learnings from the Power of One
// By Debra Rainey
Ever find yourself thinking, “I can’t really make a difference. What can one person do?”
How about secure a ban on landmines? Promote human rights, particularly the rights of women, children, and political prisoners in Iran? Lead a women’s peace movement that brought an end to the Second Liberian Civil War? Shine a glaring spotlight on the safety of women and women’s rights to full participation in peacebuilding work in Yemen? Build a broad-based grassroots organization focused on poverty reduction and environmental conservation through tree planting? Advocate for social justice and ethno-cultural reconciliation based on respect for the rights of indigenous peoples in Guatemala?
Each of these achievements was the result of the action of one woman – one individual who was the catalyst for larger-scale actions by civil society, supported by philanthropy, resulting in transformative change.
The women who sparked these achievements comprise the Nobel Women’s Initiative, which leverages the work of these women who received the Nobel Peace Prize for their individual actions that led to movement-building efforts to achieve peace, justice, and equity around the world — and uses the prestige of the Nobel Peace Prize to spotlight, amplify, and promote the work of grassroots women’s organizations and movements globally.
We’re launching a new Upswell initiative – the Nobel Women’s Initiative series – that will explore the paths of members of the Initiative from private citizen to Nobel laureate. They’ll join Independent Sector President and CEO Dan Cardinali in Upswell Pop-Up conversations – about the roots of their advocacy passion, how they stepped into the civil space as a private citizen for the public good, how they built bridges to scale impact through collaboration, how they were able to maintain their “humaneness” in the face of tremendous resistance, and how philanthropy played a role in helping to scale impact the impact of their causes and achieve transformational change.
Joining Dan in these conversations will be Lynne Twist, founder of The Soul of Money Institute, author of The Soul of Money, and a recognized global visionary who is committed to alleviating poverty, ending world hunger, supporting social justice and environmental sustainability.
According to the Nobel Women’s Initiative theory of change — change is driven from the ground up; women are key to enduring peace; peace requires the dismantling of militarism; alternative narratives turn individual passion into collective action; and a healthy civil society is essential to sustaining change and reinforcing good governance.
Their tireless work to achieve transformational change also reflects the themes of Upswell – taking new approaches to deeply entrenched challenges through innovation; building bridges to scale impact through collaboration; achieving acceleration through high-impact capacity building; and increasing resilience by harnessing insights to meet the challenges ahead.
What can we learn from these brave women, who dared to step out as a private citizen to call out unfathomable acts of inhumanity? How to strengthen our resolve in this time of crisis that requires each of us as individuals to call out the oppression of racism that is dragging us down as a nation. How to leverage our efforts to build a more equitable society through collaboration to scale impact. How to embolden are actions as a sector to build stronger, more resilient communities.
What we learn from their experiences will help guide our efforts to collectively engineer a future to help our sector and the communities we serve recover from the challenges that confront us as a nation – and truly build a just society where every person can thrive.
Nobel Women’s Initiative Members
Rigoberta Menchú Tum, Guatemala, 1992
Jody Williams, USA, 1997
Shirin Ebadi, J.D., Iran, 2003
Leymah Gbowee, Liberia, 2011
Tawakkol Karman, Yemen, 2011
Dr. Wangari Muta Maathai, Founding Member, 2004