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Here's Why Sending Books To Underprivileged Children Can Change The World

Culture

33 million girls around the globe are out of school.


 

Let that sink in for a minute, that's three times the population of the island of Manhattan, six times the population of Ireland, and twice as many people as in The Netherlands.

That means that 33 million girls, instead of expanding their horizons, enjoying their youth, and becoming the next generation of leaders, are being sold off as sex slaves, being confined to domesticity at home, or married off to men four times their age.

John Wood, Founder of Room to Read, and the organization's CEO Dr. Geetha Murali think we can do better to address the oft overlooked ramifications the literacy of children and lack of education. "We're here today celebrating the importance of challenging illiteracy and gender inequality in education," said the CEO. "We know that together we can make sure the game is changed for millions of children all around the world."

Murali and Wood joined a group of 230 enthused philanthropists, mediaites, and business professionals for an evening of cocktails, conversation and fund-raising in New York, as well as a nostalgic performance from early oughts superstar, Ashanti.

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 17: Ashanti performs onstage during the 2018 Room to Read New York Gala on May 17, 2018 at SECOND in New York City. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for Room to Read)

"Education is the foundation for all future learning, and if we don't ensure that children are educated young, their futures are at risk."

-Dr. Geetha Murali, CEO, Room to Read

Room to Read, a non-profit Wood founded in 2000, has, since conception reached over 12M children throughout the globe in its drive to end childhood illiteracy. Their agenda for the evening was to both honor some of their most emphatic supporters, and raise much needed money, as they aim to reach 15M children by 2020. On offer at the auction, everything from a swim with Olympic medalist Kim Vandenberg, to a trip to Cambodia, and a year-long WeWork membership, the grand sum of which raised a whopping $3M in a mere matter of hours.

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 17: Honoree Editor-in-Chief of Glamour Samantha Barry speaks onstage during the 2018 Room to Read New York Gala on May 17, 2018 at SECOND in New York City. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for Room to Read)

"One of the things Glamour is really, really, passionate about is empowering women and girls, and the best way to do that is through education,"

-Samantha Barry, Editor-in-Chief, Glamour

Being honored were Glamour's newly-appointed Editor-in-Chief Samantha Barry, and Citigroup's President, Jamie Forese. The significance of the award was not lost on Barry, who spoke with SWAAY about the importance of initiatives focused on educating girls, for the future of the global economy. "One of the things Glamour is really, really, passionate about is empowering women and girls, and the best way to do that is through education," she noted. "In some countries they see it as economical to have the girls at home or cooking or working , but the reality is if you put a girl into secondary [high] school and if you put her into further education, not only does it benefit her, but it benefits her family, [and] her community."

Echoing Barry's sentiments was Revenge and Greek star Dilshad Vadsaria, who was recently appointed an ambassador for the non-profit. Speaking with SWAAY, she told us how she came to know of their work and why she wanted to get involved. “I was talking to someone and they were telling me, 'Oh, I know room to read, they put books on top of mules and they carry them to these villages where children don’t have access to these books,'" she said with a smile. "The commitment it takes and the passion it takes to actually do that, where most people would go, 'well, that’s an area we can’t get to so we’ll have to concentrate on this area.' There’s no stopping them, they go above and beyond."

"These children are not going to stop needing an education, they’re not going to stop needing a place to escape too, so they can dream and hope and in turn have their dreams come true,"

-Dilshad Vadsaria, Room to Read ambassador

Olympian Kim Vandenberg also chimed in on the praise for the work Wood's organization has done over the last eighteen years. The swimmer, who is now working with young athletes to hone their skills and encourage ambition, was a natural fit for ambassador. “I work with a lot of younger swimmers and I help empower them and build their confidence so that they can achieve whatever goals they have, in and out of the pool," she commented. "So, I feel like that lines up really well with Room to Read and I’m really excited to help promote the brand to go international.”

Neema Mwita, of Tanzania took to the stage to talk about Room to Read's impact on her life. Her emotional speech ended with a raucous applause. Neema Mwita speaks onstage during the 2018 Room to Read New York Gala on May 17, 2018 at Kimpton Hotel Eventi in New York City. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for Room to Read)

Barry also spoke about doing her part in going beyond the pages of to enact change and impart the importance of advocacy to Glamour's 2.3M subscribers. In her first print issue of Glamour released this month, chose to focus solely on money, and a new attitude for the magazine going forward. in her new position spends her days championing female empowerment through one of Condé Nast's oldest running publications,

"I'm only the seventh editor that Glamour has had since 1939 so it's a responsibility I take very, very seriously," says Barry, an Irish native, who worked at CNN and BBC before stepping into her new post. "Glamour's a place that not only can do light and more serious topics around women, but really speaks to a lot of women in the middle of the country in America. I think there's a lot of media brands that don't engage with those communities in a way that they should do. I have very lofty ambitions for the type of journalism we'll be telling in the coming months."

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Politics

Michael Bloomberg Can’t Handle A Woman With A Voice (aka Elizabeth Warren)

Elizabeth Warren majorly called out "arrogant billionaire" Michael Bloomberg for his history of silencing women through NDAs and closed-door settlement negotiations. Sound familiar? Probably because we already have a president like that. At this point, Bloomberg may just spend the remainder of his (hopefully) ill-fated presidential campaign roasting on a spit over a fire sparked by the righteous anger of women. A lesser punishment than he deserves, if you ask me.


At last night's Democratic debate, Michael Bloomberg could barely stammer out an answer to a question on whether or not he would release any of his former accusers from their nondisclosure agreements. His unsatisfactory response was basically a halting list of what he has done for certain nondescript women in his time at City Hall and within his own company.

But that certainly wasn't enough for Elizabeth Warren, nor should it be, who perfectly rephrased his defense as, "I've been nice to some women." Michael Bloomberg is basically that weird, problematic Uncle that claims he can't be racist, "Because I have a Black friend." In a society where power is almost always in the hands of straight, white, cisgendered, men being "nice" to a lucky few is in no way a defense for benefiting from and building upon the systematic silencing of all marginalized communities, let alone women. Stop and frisk, anybody?

Here is a brief clip of the Warren v. Bloomberg exchange, which I highly recommend. It is absolutely (and hilariously) savage.

But let's talk about the deeper issues at hand here (other than Warren being an eloquent badass).

Michael Bloomberg has been sued multiple times, yet each time he was able to snake his way out of the problem with the help of his greatest and only superpower: cold, hard cash. Each time these allegations have come up, in Warren's words, he throws "a chunk of money at the table" and "forces the woman to wear a muzzle for the rest of her life."

As reported by Claire Lampen of The Cut, here are just a few of his prior indiscretions.

  • Pregnancy discrimination—Bloomberg reportedly told a former employee of his to "kill it," in reference to her developing fetus.
  • Sexual harassment—You could literally write a book on this subject (someone did), but for the sake of brevity...
"I'd like to do that piece of meat" - Michael Bloomberg in reference to various women at his company.
  • Undermining #MeToo—Not only did he defend the accused, but he went on the disparage accusers every step of the way.
  • Defaming transgender people—Though he claims to support trans rights, he has also been qupted multiple times as referring to trans women as "some guy wearing a dress."
Yeah... That's not a winning formula for me, Mike.

Furthermore, Warren points out the simple fact that if, as Bloomberg claims, these instances were simply big misunderstandings (He was just joking around!) then why go to all the trouble to cover them up? Does Michael Bloomberg think women can't take a joke? Or can we only surmise that the truth of these events are far darker and dirtier than we could even imagine?

Certain commentators have called Elizabeth Warren's debate presence "agressive," especially in regards to this instance but also continually throughout her entire campaign. If asking poignant questions to known abusers who are seeking to further their own political power is considered "aggressive," then I am here for it. Bring on the aggressive women, please and thank you.

Calling a woman aggressive for being confidant and direct is a gendered complaint. You don't see anyone whining that Bernie is "aggressive" when he goes off on a screaming tangent. Also, have you seen our president? He's basically the poster boy for political temper tantrums. But still, it's Warren that is deemed "aggressive," for honing in on the exact issues that need to be considered in this upcoming election.

This type of derisory label is another aspect of how our society silences women—much like Bloomberg and his NDAs. Because "silencing" is more than just putting a "muzzle" on someone. It's refusing to listen to a person's cries for help. It's disregarding what a woman has to say, because she's too "aggressive." It's taking away someone's power by refusing to truly hear their side of the story. Because if you aren't listening, responding, or even just respecting someone's words, they may well have said nothing at all.

"Silence is the ocean of the unsaid, the unspeakable, the repressed, the erased, the unheard." - Renecca Solnit

Nondiscolusure agreements are a legal gag for people who have experienced harassment and abuse at the hands of those above them.

Gretchen Carlson, possibly the most famous person subject to an NDA, is one of these people. Her story is so well-known that it has even been immortalized on film, in 2019's Bombshell. Yet she is still forced to maintain her silence. She cannot tell her side of the story even when Hollywood can. She was cajoled into her current position after facing harassment in her workplace. She didn't have the power then to do more than accept her fate. And now, she doesn't have the power to tell her story.

She was, and still is being, silenced.

After her experiences, Carlson was moved to fight for all women to have the power over their truths. In a recent op-ed for the New York Times she declared: "I want my voice back. I want it back for me, and for all those silenced by forced arbitration and NDAs."

Carlson may still be tied to her NDA, but there are those who go a different route. Celeste Headlee, who wrote an op-ed on SWAAY about her experience, chose to break her nondisclosure agreement. Though doing so undoubtedly opened her up to numerous legal ramifications, she knew that she could no longer "sign away [her] right to justice."

Because that is what an NDA is all about, signing away a person's right to justice. Their story is their justice. Their NDA is a lock and key. Headlee may have broken through that lock, but she must face the consequences.

Neither Carlson nor Headlee are any less brave for how they have handled their journeys. They are both actively working to shift the cultural and political norms that led them here, and their work will, with hope and time, lead to real change. But they are just two drops in an ocean of women who are held hostage by their nondisclosure agreements, by men like Michael Bloomberg, and by a society that would rather silence them than let truth and justice be had.