CGI U Day Two: Empowering women throughout the world

Shabana Basij-Rasikh, managing director of the School of Leadership in Afghanistan, inspired the audience this morning with her story of struggling to receive an education under Taliban rule.

Day two of CGI U at Washington University began with an excellent and inspiring plenary session called “A Better Future for Girls and Women: Empowering the Next Generation.” Moderated by Chelsea Clinton and featuring four leaders who are making a difference for women around the world, the session included microcredit pioneer and 2006 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Muhammad Yunus. As international women’s activist Zainab Salbi reminded us last evening, “If there’s one investment we need to make in the world, it’s investing in women and girls.”

Chelsea Clinton did a great job moderating the session and began with a staggering statistic: There are 66 million girls waiting to be sent to school.

We heard inspirational stories from two powerful women who have made incredible inroads in the empowerment of women in their home countries of Somalia and Afghanistan. Shabana Basij-Rasikh, managing director of the School of Leadership in Afghanistan, related a story of her own father, who risked death in sending her to school, emphasizing the role that fathers must play in ensuring better lives for their daughters. When threatened because of his commitment to his daughter, Basij-Rasikh’s father said: “Go ahead and kill me if you like. It will not stop me from getting an education for my daughter.”

Stephen Felice, president and chief commercial officer of Dell, spoke on the importance of both educating and mentoring women in the areas of science, technology, engineering and technology. He said, and I certainly concur: “This comes down to empowerment. It’s not just strictly about teaching the technologies, math and science. It’s also about creating a support environment to enable women to feel like they can come forward, express their own opinions and take risks.”

Concentrating on the incredible impact that women make in the world was a great way to begin the second day of CGI U.

Visit here to see my observations from yesterday’s opening session.