By Jim Hennigan, member of Together Women Rise National Advocacy Committee and the Advocacy Chapter With RESULTS
If there’s one thought that haunts me, it’s the fact that for all of the greatest women we can name, there are hundreds – probably thousands – more of them of equal talent and courage and character who are unknown to the world because they never had an on-ramp to opportunity.
What business do we have holding them back?
What arrogance does it take to put a stop sign in front of the people who could reverse climate change, put an end to pandemics, write songs that bring joy, or discover energy sources to deliver energy to millions — who could inspire and teach the rest of us to do great things ourselves?
Our Advocacy Chapter is aimed to leverage the raw power of the stories that our grantees share by taking those stories to the corridors of power – to the United States Congress – where those stories and our access to politicians are moving billions of dollars to obliterate some of the biggest obstacles in front of people whose gifts and talents are being systematically squandered.
For this year, Together Women Rise advocates will address the issues encompassing the full lifespan of women and girls, with emphasis on maternal and child health and nutrition as well as global education. Dr. Leslye Heilig, the chair of the National Advocacy Committee, keeps chapter members apprised of the latest requests for Congress and gives us the resources to make effective presentations, write persuasive letters, and give a voice to women and girls who would otherwise not be heard by policy makers.
The beautiful part of the work of advocacy is that we create profound change by invoking the power of story – the stories of women and girls – and not by launching missiles, engaging in conquest, threatening violence or pulling other levers of power typically employed by those who embrace toxic masculinity. Our advocacy succeeds through relationship-building, not domination. We do this work as collaborators, not as saviors.
Our advocacy is the embodiment of the name Together Women Rise because we combine the power of the story of grantees with the power of our access to the United States Congress that our members enjoy from living in America. We pair up the insight of directly impacted women and girls with our own compassion that comes from our awareness that lighting their pathway to success is the best way to light our collective pathway to ending human suffering.
There is no alpha-advocate among us because our power is collective. Newcomers and seasoned advocates are team members. We quickly discover that advocacy is not just about transforming the lives of people who are far away. In the process, we ourselves transform and grow. From this, we discover how to help our elected officials (even those predisposed to support us) transform and grow.
If there’s one thought that comforts me, it’s the fact that by acting together and relationally, the power of women can and will heal the world, and we can do so with the urgency that comes from knowing we cannot afford to squander lives.