Lift Every Voice
Vital Voices Democracy Initiative celebrates all that women have achieved—and have yet to achieve.
by Diane von Furstenberg
Diane von Furstenberg with the cast of Seven and the real women of Vital Voices.
People always ask me, “What inspires you?” And I always say, “Women.” And the reason is simple: I have never met a woman who couldn’t move mountains on her own. So imagine what we could all do together.
Last fall I was invited to speak at the Women’s Forum Global Meeting in Deauville, France. Instead of organizing a traditional business panel, I thought I’d like to speak about the human side of women. I decided the best way to do this would be to bring in a performance of the documentary play Seven. The play profiles seven women in the Vital Voices Global Leadership Network who’ve overcome tremendous challenges in their native countries. Melanne Verveer, cofounder of Vital Voices, came to Deauville as well and arranged for some of the real women on whom Seven’s stories are based to attend the performance and speak about their experiences.
When it came time to introduce the play, I was very nervous but also proud to have the privilege of bringing these real-life stories to such an important audience. As the actresses called the real women of Seven to join them onstage at the end of the play, I looked around me and saw that everyone was crying!
This is the effect Vital Voices can have on people—and the effect it has had on me.
Established in 1997 by first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, the Vital Voices Democracy Initiative was created after the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women to promote the advancement of women as a US foreign-policy goal. Over time the initiative grew, and Vital Voices conferences sprouted up around the world, bringing together emerging female leaders from 150 countries. People were listening. In June 2000, Vital Voices Global Partnership, a nonprofit nongovernmental organization (NGO), was created, and in March 2007, I became a board member.
Today, Vital Voices is the preeminent NGO that identifies, trains, and empowers emerging women leaders and social entrepreneurs around the globe, enabling them to create a better world for all. Vital Voices is on the front lines fighting for international women’s issues, and it also plays an important role in International Women’s Day, held annually in March. Last year DVF participated in International Women’s Day by hosting productions of Seven at our stores around the world, and we’re planning to make this year’s IWD an even more meaningful experience.
I encourage you to learn more about Vital Voices, to get involved in International Women’s Day, and to talk about the women’s causes that are important to your friends, to your family, and, most important, to you.