Clinton Global Initiative – Texas 2009

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President Bill Clinton’s Opening Address

Today’s young generation has more power than any other before it to make a great and lasting impact on the world.

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Opening panelists

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Natalie Portman – Starwars

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Matthew McConaghey – ‘How to lose a guy in 10 days’ actor

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Sab is from a place in Asia. She’s working on a project to raise awareness and educate the people there about rape and sex-trafficking and has taken this commitment to CGI. She is absolutely incredible. During the first few minutes of our conversation she said, ‘I am going to take part in the revolution against the current government’

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She was born in the Mondulkiri province of Cambodia. Mam was sold into sexual slavery in her childhood. Beaten, raped and tortured as a child, at the age of 30 she became a spokeswoman for women and children tortured in the brothels of Cambodia. She, with her husband Pierre Legros, created the AFESIP (Agir pour les Femmes en Situation Précaire) NGO in 1997 in Cambodia. Since then, this international NGO has developed in Thailand, Vietnam and Laos. Its goals are to save and socially reintegrate people who are victims of these kinds of hardships. Despite threats against her, Somaly Mam has been able to help thousands of young girls and teenagers who have been coerced into prostitution.

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Christine Karumba, Country Director for Congo, Women for Women International – charming woman.

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Zainab Salbi, Director and Founder of Women for Women International. My hero and model!

Zainab Salbi is an Iraqi American writer, activist and social entrepreneur who is co-founder and president for Women for Women International.

In the early 1990s, newlyweds Zainab Salbi and Amjad Atallah, a Palestinian-American, were deeply moved by the plight of the women of the former Yugoslavia, many forced into the now infamous rape and concentration camps. They wanted to volunteer to help, but were unable to locate an organization that addressed these injustices and egregious wrongs.

In lieu of a honeymoon, Salbi and Atallah, launched an organization that created “sister-to-sister” connections between sponsors in the United States and women survivors of war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. They were greeted with an overwhelming response; a woman survivor of the rape camps who had lost her husband and children during the war said, “I thought the world had forgotten us….”

They returned to the United States with a mission. With the continued support of other concerned individuals, they started Women for Women International with a shoestring budget and a small team of dedicated volunteers. Since 1993, Women for Women International has supported women survivors of war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Rwanda, Kosovo, Nigeria, Colombia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan. It has assisted more than 120,000 women, distributed more than $33 million in direct aid and microcredit loans, trained thousands of women in rights awareness, and helped thousands more to start their own small businesses.

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Barton Springs – natural hot spring, green clear water, seabed of algae, temperature constant at 18 Degrees Celsius all year round. IMG_1163

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Howdy How with our Israeli Jewish CGI-tour friends

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Austin Texas State Capital & Barton River

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Hilton’s Bell-Master; a very very nice manIMG_1188

Sleeping at the Hilton

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Austin Texas from 15th floor Hilton

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On the plane back to England after travelling for 12 hours – tired

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Flying over New York at night time – see Bridge?

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CGI 2008 –  Femin Ijtihad had just started. By the time I left we had 21 researchers in the U.K, and completed a first phase of research. Still the organisation’s goals and it’s lack of association between project aims and needs of the Afghan people glared at me from the back of my mind. Where was the constituency and legitimacy? There was so much I wanted to achieve but lacked a certain wisdom and experience that just had to come with time. All of this had to start and has to continue as an experiment. I tested the waters without really knowing, but my vision kept me going. Today, FI is no longer me. It is shared by many others.

CGI 2009 – From 21 researchers and one branch, we have expanded to 6 Universities in the United Kingdom (Warwick), United States (NYU, Columbia, The New School and Fordham), and the National University of Singapore (NUS). Altogether over the year, we have had 50 researchers research for us and have churned out 50 journal submissions with a 150 journal-goal in mind by end of Easter Holiday. FI has changed so much from one CGI to the next and I cannot wait to see what it will achieve this year.

This CGI, Tamara and I went as a team. During that same week, Marge flew to Kuala Lumpur to meet Nadia to attend the prestigious and well-based Musawah Conference. FI was across the world networking, learning, building and thinking ahead, thinking about the global implications of its work. My health kept me less excited this CGI 2009 as every conversation I started ended up with me excusing myself to cough aside but nevertheless every travel journey and each person  offered me something that I took back. I met a very talented and charming Black American, Emmanuel who I only wished I got to know better. I met Sabina, a student activists against sex trafficking in Krgystan. I learnt about different projects that students were pioneering or contributing to. Bicycles against Poverty, Well- constructions, Medical training and equipment care, Shoes to fight diseases,……When you learn about these projects that people your age are doing, it’s inspiring. Your mind starts to wander, starts to create, starts to think of ideas and resources you need to pull to enhance this project or create new ones. You meet people like Mark Hanis, founder and director of the Genocide Intervention Network and amaze yourself a thousand times when you listen to all he did to put his commitment into action; who he called, who he gathered, how he networked, how he pushed and pushed to get the results he wanted. You meet real heroes and when you return you know their stories will always be part of your life. You share them with the people you love and make it part of theirs. And the world is changed just like that.

My thanks I thank everyone who contributed so kindly without conditions to sponsor my flight to Texas. It is my last CGI as an Undergraduate Student but I hope to be part of it for a long time to come and determined to speak on the panel one day to tell my stories of FI and of my beloved Afghanistan. I thank Kate for the beautiful phonecall on Valentine’s Day and the prompt parcel as well as the hope and vision she has for FI and for the larger Muslim world. I thank my Mother for trusting in me and giving me my independence since I was a little girl; to allow me to make my own decisions and to trust that those decisions will work out. Without this independence, Afghanistan in 2005 would not have happened. England would not have happened. None of the travelling that has changed my life would have happened. I also thank my Mother for building in me the will to save! I was the richest 9 yr old kid back then :) Finally I thank my Chacha Ismail who has been my grace and my peace. You saved me from myself!

Take the time to see these links:

http://www.somaly.org/

http://www.womenforwomen.org/index.php

http://www.tomsshoes.com/

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