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              Woman is the radiance of God, she is not your beloved.
She is the Creator—you could say that she is not created. Rumi

Trista Hendren

Trista Hendren

Let’s talk spiritual activism with a feminist twist. That’s where Trista Hendren steps in — an author with an extraordinary message. Her spiritual journey has inspired her writing, activism and her mission to help women and girls reclaim the divine feminine. Trista openly discusses how her spiritual beliefs affect her social and political views and gives insight into her latest book in The Girl God series, Tell Me Why, which introduces the Divine Feminine to boys.

Tell us about your background and what eventually inspired you to write The Girl God?

I grew up in two very different evangelical Christian homes. Both were damaging in different ways, but both were very patriarchal. I became a feminist and a Muslim in college. My journey back to the Goddess has been a long one with many distractions. Giving birth to a daughter jolted me into action. My daughter was the inspiration for the book because she couldn’t relate to a male God.  I hungered to provide her with something different than what I was raised with. I wanted her to know that she is absolutely wonderful just the way she is. I dreamed of raising her to the heights instead of burying her – as we do with most girls. I didn’t want her to spend most of her adult life unburying herself as I have – and continue to do.

Do you still feel connected to your Christian roots? If so, how does it influence your present spiritual beliefs and your projects?

No, I don’t. Christianity certainly shaped and informed much of who I am, but I stopped identifying as a Christian several years ago. It’s been a long process, and one I initially suffered greatly from due to my upbringing and the belief that leaving my faith of origin meant I was headed to hell. For a time, I identified as both Christian and Muslim, but I think that too was fear-based. I now identify as Muslim but I am certainly a mixed bag. This does influence my books as I want my children – and all children – to know that there is more than one “way” out there. Scaring children with threats of hell is not a way to inspire faith or growth. I think in a lot of ways, I’m still coming out of that myself.

Why is it so important to emphasize the feminine aspect of the Divine?

First and foremost, it is the truth. She is truth. We have been living a blatant lie for thousands of years. Women give life. The Goddess IS life. God is not a man. Until we collectively return to this truth, nothing will improve.

Many of the world’s problems stem from this attempt to stamp out the truth and kill the Divine Feminine. We are coming into a time now where many women and men are awakening to the Goddess, but we are also seeing a lot of backlash around this. I believe now is the time where we must stand strong or She will be buried forever – and so will the rights, dreams and livelihood of women and girls the world over.

Amy Logan wrote in The Seven Perfumes of Sacrifice, “Every time they butcher a woman for honor, they’re killing the Goddess.” I believe that’s true with every rape and murder of a female, and to a somewhat lesser extent, every time a woman is hit, verbally abused or forced to live in poverty.

It’s time for us to become really intentional about what we want for ourselves and our daughters.

From THE GIRL GOD by Trista Hendren — Illustration by Elisabeth Slettnes

Most women do not speak about how their faith empowers them as an activist. Can you talk about how your spirituality informs and strengthens your activism?

Activism often results in tremendous burnout. There is a never-ending stream of problems that must be addressed in our world, and just thinking about them all is exhausting.

Z. Budapest once said, “Withouth the Goddess, feminism is not going to work, because you’re going to burn out. You’ve got to have spirituality connected with your political aspiration because that’s how this animal works.” I believe she was spot on.

I also think that without a spiritual component to our activism, we are just putting a Band-Aid on a gaping wound. We must address the root of the problem, which I believe to be the blatant, murderous attack on the Divine Feminine.

What types of responses do you receive from men about your books?

I don’t have a huge male readership, however, many men have written to me to say that they are purchasing books for their wives and daughters. I have had a few men leave angry Amazon reviews, but I haven’t received a coherent review yet from someone who has actually purchased a book, so I don’t give those much thought. I think the idea of a female goddess is upsetting to some men. I think most would be surprised at how a female god behaves.

My husband does all my book formatting, so he is intimately connected with each of my books and has also given me content suggestions along the way. Because my children have appeared in my books, I always have included them in the editing process as well. For the most part, I have never written with men or boys in mind, so it will be interesting to see how Tell Me Why resonates with grown men.

What influenced you to write your new book, Tell Me Why?

Tell Me Why is a deeply personal book. I have been, for the most part, a single mom, raising a son and a daughter almost entirely on my own.tellmewhy_cover My son is eleven now and it hit me about a year ago that he will be grown and out of the house soon. This is enormously painful for me looking back because I feel like I have missed so many moments with him in my attempts to pay the bills and do what had to be done. There are very few weekends that I have had to myself since my children were born, but I had a rare occasion where my ex had both children for an entire weekend. I wrote out the entire book then and picked out the quotes I wanted to support it. Tell Me Why is the message I want to leave to my son as to how to become a fully human man in a world that worships destruction and abuse – particularly towards the feminine.

What are Goddess Camps for Girls?

Goddess Camps for Girls are meant to be an alternative to the popular “Vacation Bible School” camps that take place all summer. I wanted to create something that would empower girls at the core level. While the majority of programs for girls focus on outward measures, our camps encourage girls to turn inward. We believe the root of the issue is in reclaiming the Divine Feminine. By re-uniting girls with their innate spirituality, our camps hope to empower girls to become the women they were born to be.

There is a group of women across the U.S. who have been planning Goddess Camps for Girls for several years now. We have the infrastructure in place but still lack the funding. We are planning to do crowd funding for the camps later this year so that we can be up and running next summer. We have a website up at www.goddesscampsforgirls.com

Can you tell us about the anthologies you are working on and why they are important to you?

I am currently compiling two anthologies for feminist women of faith: Whatever Works: Feminists of Faith Speak and Jesus, Mohammed and the Goddess. I hope to gather submissions from women all over the world. There is information about both books on my blog.

It is important to me that women work collectively towards a better world. I believe that by supporting each other and sharing our stories, we will bring truth and light to the world more quickly.

****

You can find Trista Hendren’s books on her website thegirlgod.com as well as on Amazon. Trista collaborates with illustrator Elisabeth Slettness, a renowned artist living in Lilehammer, Norway, who has created the colorful and captivating images in The Girl God series. You can see more of Elisabeth’s work at elisabethslettnes.net.

The only way to have a sustainable future is to create it . . .

Ubaka Hill

Ubaka Hill

Imagine. Women around the world gathering together for a global celebration.

Teacher and performer, Ubaka Hill, Founder of the Million Women Drummers Gathering, did just that. At the drumming event held on Oct. 13, 2013 in New Paltz, NY, Ubaka began by addressing the audience:

“This is a vision and it’s an intiative . . . This is our time. This is our turn. This is our legacy.” Drummers were encouraged to be mindful of the origins of drums and other musical instruments and respect the trees which were used to make them.

Although everyone was invited, the fact that the event focused on women’s power made it all the more unique. Led by several female vocalists, participants welcomed the four directions, turning to the East, South, West and finally, the North. While looking northward, we were encouraged to express our gratitude to the Mother, the divine feminine which has given us so much, including our very lives.

There was such incredible power coming from the voices of the the women who were leading us that it seemed as if they were breaking the sound barrier. The experience highlighted the potency of the human voice, out in the open and unhindered, calling out to the earth and sky. There was so much energy released that there can be no doubt of the vital spiritual tide that was created.

During the gathering, “Letters to the Future” were read, expressing the need to nourish and sustain the earth and to not take the trees or any part of our environment for granted.

IMAG0287Drumming together in the wide open field of the Ulster Fairgrounds, we were bonded in our commitment to be stewards of the earth, a necessary and formidable task in our current world climate. We were all given a ribbon to tie to nearby trees, creating a deeper connection to the life around us. Personal responsibility was one of the major goals stressed, as well as collectively uniting to protect our environment and to plant more trees to ensure that we replenish what has been taken.

Donna Coane, lead drummer of Spirit of Thunderheart, told us of a great prophecy.

When the tops of our maple trees die, the women will take back the drum.”

It appears that this time has come. Women are gathering throughout the world, keeping rhythm with the heart of the earth. Loving our world, giving back to nature, and respecting the feminine — the mother — which has sustained us in more ways than we can possibly imagine, is not only our duty but will be our legacy.

Spirit of Thunderheart

Spirit of Thunderheart


********

All Photos by Angelina Perri Birney

Cyrus Cylinder

IN THE SIXTH CENTURY BC, CYRUS THE GREAT OF PERSIA conquered the Middle East and a large part of Asia. Upon his entry into Babylon, he freed the many captive peoples found there. His magnanimous gesture liberated the Jewish nation and entitled her people to return to Jerusalem with their Temple treasures and begin rebuilding Solomon’s Temple destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar. The Prophet Isaiah referred to Cyrus as “anointed by the Lord.”

Cyrus’ legacy as a humanitarian monarch continues to this day. Xenophon, a student of Socrates, wrote The Cyropaedia, a biography of Cyrus which extolled his virtues. Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar carried copies with them. America was directly founded under the benevolent monarch model offered by Cyrus’ example. Thomas Jefferson read the Cyropaedia frequently.

Thomas Jefferson's copy of the Cyropaedia

Thomas Jefferson’s copy of the Cyropaedia

In 1879 a clay record of Cyrus’ decree was unearthed in the ruins of the ancient city of Babylon in Iraq. Known today as the Cyrus Cylinder this priceless account has been referred to as “the first Bill of Rights.” Our very concept of religious tolerance and personal freedom dates to the mind of the Great Persian King. To liberate slaves of a conquered nation and restore their birthright was an extraordinary concept.

Cyrus’ empire, which we now call the Middle East, was a far-reaching ménage of different cultures and faiths. The Cyrus Cylinder decreed a paradigm for coexistence — a blueprint which established an enlightened order.

Now, in a historic tour sponsored by IHF America, the original Cyrus Cylinder is on loan to the United States from the British Museum. Beginning at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC, the Cylinder will be on display in Houston, New York, and San Francisco, concluding its visit in Los Angeles in early December 2013. This historic effort is the culmination of almost twenty years of work by the Iran Heritage Foundation.

In addition to the influence of the Cyropaedia on the US founding fathers, its core principles resonate with those of the United Nations. The high-minded concepts fathered by Cyrus in Persia thousands of years ago have found expression in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Brought to life by John Peters Humphrey and the UN Commission on Human Rights chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt, the Declaration was adopted by the United Nations on December 10, 1948.

eleanor roosevelt - UDHR 2Disregard and contempt for Human Rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people… All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. UDHR

In the aftermath of WWII, the United Nations created a Partition Plan for Palestine which called for an International Trusteeship for the city of Jerusalem. This plan was never given the chance to be implemented. In essence, the blueprint to create two states, with Jerusalem under UN auspices as a religious center for all faiths, was thwarted before it could be realized. Unfortunately for both Arabs and Jews, as well as the world at large, we have all lived with the tragic result.

Originally opposed to the creation of Israel, Eleanor Roosevelt reversed her position when faced with the sad realization that the world community was refusing to allow immigration for the victims of Hitler’s nightmare. The United States itself refused sanctuary after the war just as it had before the conflict. Eleanor supported the Partition Plan and was appalled when the Arab states refused to accept the two state solution.

As the clock ticked down toward the expiration of the British Mandate in Palestine in May of 1948, and under pressure to finalize the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Eleanor reached a tipping point when George C. Marshall’s State Department reversed its policy at the final moment and chose to appease the oil-producing states and oppose partition of Palestine. Eleanor then decided to resign from the US delegation to the UN. She famously stated in her letter to President Truman, “I cannot believe that war is the best solution. No one won the last war, and no one will win the next war.” Truman did not accept her resignation. But Eleanor realized, ahead of her time, that the United States’ refusal to back the Partition, which included international status for Jerusalem, would critically weaken the credibility of the UN and place the region itself in an untenable situation with regard to long-term stability.

The current Middle East fiasco should defer us once once again to Cyrus the Great for a history lesson. Cyrus’ vision of leadership was a forerunner to the UN 1947 resolution for the future of Palestine. Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum stated, “Cyrus set up a model of how you run a great multinational, multifaith, multicultural society . . . It left a dream of the Middle East as a unit, and a unit where people of different faiths could live together.”

Today we must revive that dream or, as history has already chronicled, face disastrous results. Just as a strain of music creates a distinct melody through repetition, we now hear clearly — yet again — the strains of war in the Middle East. It is time for a new refrain, in vision and deed.

Building upon Cyrus’ model, creating a social order which allows the expression of individual cultures and faiths is the avenue to peaceful co-existence and governance. Our present-day Middle East drama calls for us to recognize that we already have the seed for fostering that co-existence. Creating an international peace zone within the Old City of Jerusalem is the key. Those in the United Nations who originally conceived this idea were expressing the wisdom of governance by recognizing that a leap was necessary to actualize peace in the region. They were well aware that the area was of monumental importance to three world religions and that stabilizing Jerusalem was essential to maintaining peace.

               Jerusalem, sacred to the three great monotheistic religions, stands for something higher and more sublime than nationalism. It stands for the ideal which lies behind the very creation of the United Nations itself. Any attempt to oppose by force the internationalization of Jerusalem would be an affront to civilized men everywhere.” — From a letter sent by Reverend Charles T. Bridgeman, former Canon of St. George’s Cathedral in Jerusalem, to the President of the UN Trusteeship Council in January 1950

In his book, The Temple at Jerusalem: a Revelation, John Michell recognized the Old City of Jerusalem itself as the Temple. He saw it as the convergence point for all peoples of all cultures and faiths — Jewish, Muslim, Christian, as well as other spiritual traditions — to unite in peace, a United Nations for all religions.

Pure Vision covThat very concept, expounded by political and religious leaders throughout the world as well as by writers such as John Michell, has found expression through the arts. PURE VISION: The Magdalene Revelation is a novel based on a return to this noble ideal. With the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the creation of an international peace zone within Jerusalem as foundational elements, Pure Vision sparks a transformative dialogue. The aim is simple. Once openly discussed, powerful ideas reshape reality.

As Neil MacGregor, Director of the British museum asks, “What story of the Middle East, what story of the world, do you want to see reflecting what is said, what is expressed in this cylinder?”

That question resounds with a fundamental answer — human rights for all. The dramatic tale of the Middle East can change radically, as it has in the past. A region of trauma can once again be transformed into a land where religious freedom and individual dignity is honored. Then Jerusalem can finally become what it is meant to be: The City of Peace.

*****

Article written by Angelina Perri Birney and Lawrence Birney

               ONE IN THREE WOMEN ON THE PLANET WILL BE RAPED OR BEATEN IN HER LIFETIME – onebillionrising.org

One Billion Rising -logo-webOn February 14, 2013, V-Day celebrates its 15th Anniversary. Valentine’s day and V-Day — it makes sense. What better day for hearts to rise in unison as one global voice, refusing to accept violence against women and girls. This revolutionary movement is a much needed wake-up call for those who have complacently accepted the atrocities.

Imagine one billion women and those who support them rising together in a global strike, dancing together in the streets in an act of solidarity. Sounds crazy? Well, may it is. You don’t gain attention by being dainty or by conforming to the status quo. A wild dance party, a planetary flash dance, will definitely strike a chord. Want to join in and support the cause? Then get the One Billion Rising toolkit.

As Eve Ensler, V-Day founder, stated in a 2012 Huffington Post article: Today 1 out of 3 women in the world — more than 1 billion women — will be raped or beaten. As economies collapse and the 99 percent struggles with less and less, as global warming increases, and fires, floods, drought abound, the violence against women and girls increases. They become targets. They become commodities, sold in many places for less than a cell phone.

The thought that women’s and girls’ lives have such little value in so many areas around the world is one that should knock us off our duffs. In an age of internet, blogs, and videos we still need to take serious objectives to the streets. Eve is simply in tune with what’s already happening on a planetary scale. Women are coming to the fore because they need to. It’s a wave that’s been building — a powerful force that we need to ride. So let’s get visible. Let’s be heard. Let’s start . . . dancing!

One Billion Rising video

One Billion Rising video

Break the Chain
Lyrics by Tena Clark
Music by Tena Clark/Tim Heintz

Intro-
I raise my arms to the sky
On my knees I pray
I’m not afraid anymore
I will walk through that door
Walk, dance, rise
Walk, dance, rise

I can see a world where we all live
Safe and free from all oppression
No more rape or incest, or abuse
Women are not a possession

You’ve never owned me, don’t even know me I’m not invisible, I’m simply wonderful I feel my heart for the first time racing I feel alive, I feel so amazing

I dance cause I love
Dance cause I dream
Dance cause I’ve had enough
Dance to stop the screams
Dance to break the rules
Dance to stop the pain
Dance to turn it upside down
Its time to break the chain, oh yeah
Break the Chain
Dance, rise
Dance, rise

In the middle of this madness, we will stand I know there is a better world Take your sisters & your brothers by the hand Reach out to every woman & girl

This is my body, my body’s holy
No more excuses, no more abuses
We are mothers, we are teachers,
We are beautiful, beautiful creatures

I dance cause I love
Dance cause I dream
Dance cause I’ve had enough
Dance to stop the screams
Dance to break the rules
Dance to stop the pain
Dance to turn it upside down
It’s time to break the chain, oh yeah
Break the Chain, oh yeah
Break the Chain

Dance Break Inst.

Dance, rise
Dance, rise

Sister won’t you help me, sister won’t you rise x4

Dance, rise
Dance, rise

Sister won’t you help me, sister won’t you rise x4

This is my body, my body’s holy
No more excuses, no more abuses
We are mothers, we are teachers,
We are beautiful, beautiful creatures

I dance cause I love
Dance cause I dream
Dance cause I’ve had enough
Dance to stop the screams
Dance to break the rules
Dance to stop the pain
Dance to turn it upside down
Its time to break the chain, oh yeah
Break the Chain, oh yeah
Break the Chain

(Repeat chorus)

******

front cover.inddJust as music is a powerful tool to create change so are films and books. Imagine one billion women rising to create an international peace zone. That’s exactly what happens in the novel, PURE VISION: The Magdalene Revelation by Perri Birney.

Birney infuses this epic novel with feminine echoes of The Da Vinci Code and The Red Tent, with her eyes on the prize of world peace.” Chronogram

PURE VISION is available in print and as an eBook on Amazon U.S, Amazon UK, Amazon CANADA, Amazon GERMANY, Amazon ITALY, Amazon FRANCE, Amazon SPAIN, Amazon JAPAN, Amazon INDIA, Amazon BRAZIL, Amazon MEXICO, Amazon AUSTRALIA, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Apple.

My interview with Medea Benjamin, co-founder of CODEPINK Women for Peace, has been published in the McGraw-Hill Anthology, WOMEN: Images & Realities. I am truly honored and happy to be part of such a wonderful publication which includes writers such as Betty Friedan, Bell Hooks, Naomi Wolf, and a host of others who I greatly admire. — Angelina Perri Birney

Pure Vision

       Any woman who chooses to behave like a full human being should be warned that the armies of the status quo will treat her as something of a dirty joke. That’s their natural and first weapon. She will need her sisterhood.  — Gloria Steinem

A radical, a crazed lunatic, unpatriotic, a communist. . . perhaps even a sorceress.  

Strong women speaking truth to power have always received some form of derogatory press. By the time either the media or more conservative, political zealots are through, an outspoken intelligent woman can be portrayed as the next Medusa.  

Medea Benjamin is no exception to the rule. Brushing past the slurs, an intelligent observer quickly concludes that Medea is no ordinary woman. With a master’s degree in public health from Columbia University and another in economics from the The New School, Medea has worked as an economist and nutritionist in Latin America…

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The empowerment of women and girls is essential for a more just and balanced world. Let’s create real change — a new paradigm where girls are valued and given a fair chance to flourish.

Girls' Globe

Author of this post is Elisabeth Jessop, the U.S: Delegate at the G(irks) 20 Summit. 

I’m number 4,541. What’s your number?

There are 3.5 billion women and girls in the world…and therefore, 3.5 billion ways to change the world.

And I will be the change. I will be an advocate and an inspiration to girls and women around the world.

In about three weeks, the G20 summit will take place in Mexico where the world’s most influential leaders will make important decisions regarding economic investment and policy that affects women and girls.

The G(irls)20 Summit brings together one girl, aged 18 to 20, from each G20 country and one girl from the African Union, to discuss the economic impact women and girls have on the global economy. On the agenda this year, the summit focused on food security and violence against women in terms of opportunity gained and lost.

The formal presentation…

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                  The ability of writers to imagine what is not the self, to familiarize the strange and mystify the familiar, is the test of their power. – Toni Morrison

Angelina Perri Birney

With women’s movements around the world on the rise, one must ask a fundamental question: What’s missing from our political, economic, social and educational systems that needs fixing? As the author of this blog, Powerful Women Changing the World, I have interviewed many prominent women — Marie C. Wilson of The White House Project, Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau of eTalk, Almas Jiwani of UN Women Canada, and Madeline Di Nonno of the Geena Davis Institute, among them — who have all expressed the obvious. The lack of women in leadership roles means a waste of talent, skill, and insight.

I would like to deepen this perspective a bit further. Feminine power has been disregarded and that negligence has led to the imbalance we’re collectively experiencing. We see it everywhere — in religious institutions, government policies, business sectors and peace initiatives. Somewhere along the line we have gotten confused, believing that a masculine approach is stronger and will guarantee the attainment of our goals. But experience informs us otherwise. Many so-called “victories” have been short-lived and we find ourselves in fruitless cycles, using some form of aggression or dominance to resolve our difficulties. Without properly regarding the feminine we ultimately lose, no matter how often or how hard we fight. It’s only when the masculine and the feminine work together that we can reach any sane or lasting solutions. That’s why it’s so important for men, as well as women, to accept, respect and confirm that which is feminine in themselves so the issue of feminine power doesn’t become a women vs. men type of thing, but rather a blending that is beneficial to both. With that perspective, the uplifting of women around the globe is not a threatening issue, but one that is empowering to all.

In my novel, PURE VISION, feminine power is revealed as the driving force necessary to change the world and balance out the more masculine energies we’ve been predominantly working with. The book has a unique storyline, weaving myth, history, and political intrigue. It also introduces a strong and powerful female character, Maggie Seline, who is persecuted for of her beliefs. My husband, Lawrence, and I began writing the book ten years ago, and it metamorphosized dramatically along the way. There’s plenty of unexpected twists to the plot, so it’s entertaining, and yet at the same time, it really inspires you to think and envision something greater. PURE VISION sets you on an adventure — women from all over the world march toward creating an international peace zone — so plenty of action against a backdrop of current and historical events.

I’ve also been asked what inspired me to write this particular story. So much of the conflict we’re seeing around the world makes you stop and think about how we can all make a difference. When I hear about and see people hurt by the ravages of war, there’s a part of me that knows I can’t just bury my head in the sand. In my own case, I know I can communicate a story in an entertaining way and be able to reach a wide audience. So that’s how it started. I felt the need to express powerful ideals in a way that gave everyone room to think. When I actually began writing, I was inspired by the stories of great leaders — men and women such as Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Aung San Suu Kyi, and Leymah Gbowee of Liberia — who stood against all odds because they had a vision of peace and decency.

There’s also a real need in the world for strong women characters, both in everyday life and in fiction. I believe PURE VISION fulfills that need by providing an intelligent, resourceful, larger-than-life female protagonist who is a force to be reckoned with. On a grander scale, I believe the novel recognizes that feminine energy must to be embraced — whether we’re male or female — in order to create a more balanced world. The story also creates a space where we can look at our problems in a new light. Instead of using old, worn-out methods like political divides and military force to attain resolution, we need to include spiritual or higher-minded means in our efforts.

Art is such a powerful tool and artists are always using it to create change. My hope is that PURE VISION makes its mark and transforms readers, inspiring them to support an ideal beyond division and blame — a vision of peace.

PURE VISION: The Magdalene Revelation

If you thrive on unraveling mysteries and discovering threatening secrets like those found in Holy Blood, Holy Grail and The Da Vinci Code, then Pure Vision is a must read. The novel’s additional ingredient of social conscience and an ending that stimulates readers to create a new paradigm makes it all the more powerful and explosive — a contemporary statement meant to move you out of your mind and onto the street.

Available from: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Apple iTunes

Author’s Website: perribirney.com

Genre:  Fiction, Action/Adventure, Thriller

Reviews:

“A thrill ride in the vein of The Da Vinci Code but with a much larger vision for all of us. The alchemy is part historic fiction, part spiritual adventure, and a variety of interfaith metaphysics that metamorphosize into a golden vision of world peace . . . a page turner.” — Paul Hertel, Whole Living

Presents a fascinating story full of intrigue and history. Birney’s fiction seamlessly blends science and religion into a tale worthy of Indiana Jones . . . The book left this reader confident that idealism is not dead and that, sometimes, it can be the road map by which we might save ourselves. — Cynthia Warren, Daily Freeman

Birney infuses this epic novel with feminine echoes of The Da Vinci Code and The Red Tent, with her eyes on the prize of world peace. Reporter Maggie Seline courts controversy by championing an international Jerusalem . . . when she disappears women around the globe march for peace . . . powerful men vie for two ancient artifacts.” — Chronogram

******

With a Master’s degree in English Education from NYU and a B.A. in Writing and Communications, Angelina Perri Birney has also been trained in the Tibetan Buddhist lama tradition and completed a three-year retreat. While traveling extensively throughout Tibet, Nepal and India, she experienced the rich cultures and spiritual traditions practiced in these lands. She received teachings on the various myths explored within Pure Vision, in particular that of Shambhala, from several eminent teachers including the Dalai Lama. Angelina is also an alumna of the White House Project, an organization which promotes women’s advancement and leadership. In addition to her blog, Powerful Women Changing the World, Angelina’s work has also been published in the McGraw-Hill anthology, Women: Images and Realities (2011).

     Being a singer is a natural gift. It means I’m using to the highest degree possible the gift that God gave me to use. I’m happy with that. Aretha Franklin

Belinda Brady

Belinda Brady knows the power of voice. A two time Juno Nominee for her hit singles “Flex” and “Gifted Man” she has also won the Canadian Urban Music Award for “Too Late” (1999) for best R&B single. The singer-songwriter has proven to be a woman who has designed her own course. Presently, the world’s the stage as far as Belinda is concerned, and she is ready and able to deliver her music onto a global platform.

Born in Kingston, Jamaica, her artistry was influenced right from the start by parents who were deeply involved in the music business.

“My father, Carl Brady, was one of the founding members of a very famous calypso soca band by the name of Byron Lee and the Dragonaires,” Belinda states. “So I grew up being around the band and around the music. My mom was actually a dancer and traveled across the Caribbean and all across the world with them. Her name was Madame Wasp. My parents inspired me tremendously in terms of wanting to be a recording artist and wanting to be involved in the music business. I just loved the excitement and loved going up on stage seeing my mom and dad. I was always in awe when I saw my dad performing.”

Belinda eventually joined the Jamaica Musical Theatre Company where she was able to hone her craft as a singer, dancer and as an actress.

“I learned a lot from the theatre, but my first professional gig was with soca queen Denyse Plummer from Trinidad,” Belinda recalls. “I think I was seventeen years old at the time, and she asked me to come and sing and dance with her. That was really fascinating. The first show I did was one of the biggest festivals in Jamaica called Reggae Sunsplash. They’re no longer around, but it was one of the most prestigious festivals, and I had the opportunity to perform there.”

Her career beginning to blossom, Belinda graduated from Hillel Academy, an international school in Jamaica. “That was another great experience. At school we had a lot of foreign students, and it was a very diverse environment. We were interacting with people from all over the world, so that alone was setting up the stage for my launch outside of Jamaica.”

As Belinda explains, her mother also made a pivotal decision at that time — a choice that catapulted Belinda into a new world. “I’m the youngest out of eight. So wherever my mom went, I thought ‘I’ve gotta go.’ She decided to move to Canada to start a new life, and after I graduated from Hillel I decided to go there.” Belinda remarks how she wanted to get her OEC as well as attend York University. “I had it all planned out.”

But life, Belinda muses, doesn’t always go exactly as intended. To her surprise, new doors began to open. “You have to just go with the flow or with the path that has chosen you as opposed to the path that you’ve chosen. I was offered an opportunity to work with a very famous recording artist by the name of Shaggy. I traveled the world with him — to Asia, to the UK, and we did promotional shows in the States.”

Belinda remembers her travels with Shaggy vividly. “I’d be dancing on the stage in front of 10,000 people, telling them to wave their hands left to right. It was such a powerful, inspiring and enlightening experience. And I never forgot how that was an Aha moment in my life — about the power that one has in front of all those people and what you can do with that power, good or bad.”

Along with the ecstatic moments, Belinda has faced her own struggles as a musician. Like many female artists, she’s encountered difficulties in an industry that is still male-oriented and tends to package female singers by sexualizing them. Belinda clearly recognized the pitfalls and relates how she had to make some life-changing decisions in order to steer clear of the “sex object” trap.

“I must say that in the beginning, I had no clue. I was so naïve, and everything was being handed to me on a silver platter until the point that I decided to leave the Shaggy core to become a solo artist.” With a strong desire to strike out on her own, Belinda envisioned herself making it to the top, performing in Spain and Paris and many of the places she had previously visited with Shaggy. “Unfortunately, that wasn’t the reality. I had a lot of challenges as a female with wanting producers to take me seriously. I’m not saying with all of them, but with many. In Jamaica, unfortunately, the music industry is very male-dominated.”

Some producers Belinda encountered didn’t toe the professional line, but instead wanted to pursue a relationship. “It became like you work with me, but we also have to get involved intimately, and that wasn’t the direction I wanted to take. My parents showed me a life where I didn’t need to make that choice, so I walked away. I walked away from many opportunities.”

Belinda also notes she confronted similar issues even in Canada — producers and other music business professionals who did not want to speak to the artist directly, and in the case of female musicians, who wanted to strike up a more intimate relationship with them while working. “That was always the issue. There was no longevity in terms of doing a project from start to finish.”

What Belinda describes is quite a common experience for female artists. Many still deal with outdated concepts about which instruments are acceptable for them to play. They still confront not being taken as seriously as their male counterparts. And, big surprise, they’re still portrayed as sex objects.

So the next step, as Belinda describes, was to take matters into her own hands. “At this point in my career, I decided I’m not going to knock on a producer’s or a manager’s door and ask him to work with me. As an independent artist, I’m going to fund my own projects.” Belinda conveys a strong stance. “You have to take control of your situation as opposed to allowing other people to take it for you or to bring you to the finishing line, because if you do, you’ll be waiting forever.”

Belinda also gives credit to her former manager, Canadian Idol judge Farley Flex, for ushering her to the next plateau in her career. “Although he’s no longer my manager, he took me to a level where I developed the strength within to say, ‘You know, I’ve done some great work.’ He gave me the platform to be myself, which is a diverse artist.”

Independent and steering her own path, Belinda found investing in herself key to her professional development. “That’s one thing I’d like to put out there for any artist. This is a business, and you’ve got to invest in your craft. And yes, you will lose but you will also win. There’s fulfillment within it if you plan it right. So now here I am as an independent artist, and as a woman, feeling very fulfilled with the choices that I’ve made and the team that I’ve created around me.”

Belinda’s unique vision also includes being true to herself with regard to her musical style. She flows easily between the genres — Rock, Pop, R&B, Folk and Reggae — influenced by artists such as Bob Marley, Joni Mitchell, Led Zeppelin, India Arie and Alanis Morissette. Her musical canvas is broad, and Belinda likes it that way. As she notes, being eclectic provides her the freedom to connect to a wide audience.

“I think I write for everybody,” Belinda states, “and it’s from the heart. Coming from Jamaica, people think, ‘Oh she’s just reggae, just reggae.’ But no, the first song that I wrote was a folk song. I was in England . . . and I wrote a folk song! I didn’t even know how to write reggae, and I had to be trained how to do that. I  loved heavy metal, and I also loved Salt-N-Pepa.”

A versatile artist, Belinda’s music doesn’t lend itself to being neatly categorized. “The album I had done with Farley Flex was very diverse. I had reggae on it. I had rock and folk, and I had R&B. Unfortunately, the music industry had no idea what to do with it,” she reflects. “It’s about the marketing and the target market, and they don’t believe that certain markets can cross over. But I think they’re absolutely wrong because there are artists out there that have done it. What I think they’re saying is that you have to be established in the beginning and grow a fan base and then you can cross over like, for example, Shania Twain or Whitney Houston. So I was always the artist that was developing and they were always saying Stay here, no stay here.”

But Belinda was not about to stay here for too long. She enjoys diversity. It’s who she is. “I think I was ahead of myself, so they say,” Belinda reflects, “at least in theory.”

But perhaps she’s no longer ahead of her time, but right on game. What the music industry could not wrap its collective head around in the past may be what will change it for the better today. A little renovation is due. It may be time to alter the music scene, change the playing field if you will, so musicians, women as well as men, can express their art without being bound by the same old rules. Could adding more women leaders to the music industry make a difference?

“I think we need more role models — women who are successful in the music business — to inspire the younger generation, to help them understand that there are different ways other than getting intimate with a producer or selling your body to do this. You can use your mind and educate yourself. That’s why role models are important. We can go out and we can educate the younger generation to feel inspired, to know that as a recording artist you can be respected, and as a business professional in the music industry you can be successful. We can also let them know there are other avenues within the industry where you can actually make a good income as well.”

As Belinda moves forward, performing at forums such as Amazing Woman’s Day and more recently on International Women’s Day as well as at the UN Women Canada event at CBC, Progress of the World’s Women, she highlights her commitment to humanitarian issues, including women’s empowerment.

“Well, I have to tell you that my life changed when I performed at Amazing Woman’s Day when I saw three hundred women standing up, crying and clapping and feeling so inspired. I thought, ‘This is the reason why my God wants me to do this. I need to be here on this earth to inspire people, and not just women. I am a vehicle, and as a vehicle I’m going to spread a positive message. I’m going to touch the soul.’ And I touched souls that day. I realized that is my path, that is my purpose, and that is my journey. So when I was invited by UN Women Canada to sing, I said ‘Absolutely, yes. I would love to be a part of your forum.’ I would love to serve my purpose — as a woman, as a messenger, and as a vehicle through song.”

And there’s no doubt that Belinda is definitely inspiring women to feel their own sense of power.

“I really feel that when I perform, I’m helping women feel empowered and know that they can do whatever they want to do. When it comes to the message I bring and the words I sing, I really want them to feel it. I want them to hear it. I want them to know that they can live it,” Belinda asserts. “I want to hit home for people and help them feel empowered and enlightened and know that they have the strength within to accomplish whatever dream they may have — whether that’s to be happy, whether it’s to find the right career, or whether it’s to live this life with contentment. My goal is to touch them so they can feel the light within.”

Yet, as many of us know, being in touch with that light is only part of the journey. Belinda offers some words of encouragement about pursuing your dreams and being yourself, no matter what.

“I think it all starts with self and I had to learn that,” she relates. “I went to self-development courses. I read A New Earth and The Power of Now (by Eckhart Tolle) and also Tony Robbins’ work. I hadn’t the confidence in myself to know that I could have this internal strength, that I could see the light and be enlightened as to what my purpose was on this earth. So it all starts in the core with finding the truth of who you are, accepting that truth, feeling joy, and moving on from the joy to executing what you truly want in this life.”

Listening to Belinda, one can’t help but feel her enthusiasm. She not only talks the talk but is determined to go the distance, expressing excitement about the new album she’s currently developing. “FACTOR (The Foundation Assisting Canadian Talent on Recordings) is an agency that allows Canadian artists to pursue their dreams and they funded me. My project manager, Aisha Wickham Thomas, wrote a grant proposal, and we received a grant to do the album as well as to execute a marketing plan. So because of the funding assistance from this organization, I’m in the position to go into the studio to do a pop-electro album. It’s going to be really exciting because of all the positive things that are going to come out of it. I can’t wait to share it with the world. I really can’t.”

And just what are the themes that are moving Belinda’s music these days?

“I’m in a place where I don’t want to write about negativity,” Belinda states matter-of-factly. “I think this album’s direction should be about enlightenment and empowerment. It doesn’t matter through what type of music – it could be reggae, it could be folk – I’ve chosen pop-electro for this one. The message will be parallel in every song. It’s going to be positive and it’s going to be powerful. How do you feel within? It’s going to drive that light from inside. I’m so excited just talking about it. I’m going to be writing a lot this year, and that will be the common thread — positive music, positive lyrics.”

Belinda mentions a particular song she wrote, You’re So Amazing, that highlights her own state of mind as well as connects to the sense of inner power she wishes to evoke in her audience. “I was inspired by my mother who is my hero. To see how she’s gone through her challenges and her triumphs in life just inspired me to write this song. Here’s a few lines I wanted to share that a lot of women can relate to:

She’s a mother, a teacher, a healer too.

She’s not perfect, but she’s always true.

She’s a hero I see in you.

The higher she climbs, the further she soars . . .

“You see,” Belinda mentions, “the higher she climbs, the further she soars. That is the life of my mother. And a lot of women can absolutely relate to that. The higher you climb, the further you soar. Just don’t give up.”

Traveling her own path as a singer and songwriter, Belinda has chosen not to take the easy road to success, and giving up was never an option. Along the way, she’s recognized that to be truly clear about your purpose, a woman has to discover her authentic self.

“Go back to the core and really work on that,” Belinda emphasizes. “If it’s through inspirational books or inspirational tapes, if it’s by praying and giving total gratitude to a higher power, whoever your higher power is, you’ll find the answer. I promise you that. When we continually give gratitude for even the little opportunities in life, it will erase the fear. It will open the door to the light for us to understand our true self.”

And, as Belinda affirms,”We can then plan an enlightened life, an empowered life. That is the message.”

******
Find out more about the artist and her music at BelindaBrady.com
All photos used by permission.

               The education and empowerment of women throughout the world cannot fail to result in a more caring, tolerant, just and peaceful life for all.                                     — Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate

Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau

Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau is literally a force of nature. She brings a heart-centered approach to every arena of her life, from her marriage to Justin Trudeau, a liberal member of the Canadian Parliament and son of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, to raising her two children, to being a social activist, right through to her position as Quebec correspondent for eTalk, Canada’s most-watched entertainment news program.

Listening to her speak, one can’t help but think she has a natural flair for connecting with people, especially to women and girls, who readily respond to the openness and transparency she offers. Sophie immediately demonstrates her willingness to be straightforward, speaking about her struggles as well as what brought her to the different aspects of her path as an advocate and a reporter.

“To make a long story short, I’m an only child,” Sophie states. “I was brought up in a very loving family and I was fortunate to have a privileged upbringing. We weren’t millionaires, not at all, but we never lacked anything and we led a good life. My parents sent me to camp and paid for my travels and studies, so and I was very well cared for. I’m still very close to them, and they’re also amazing grandparents. Yet, obviously, everyone has their own struggles and I had mine. In my teenage years, I was faced with dealing with an eating disorder, which of course was an illness, but it was also a symptom of greater wounds. And as any other teenager who is dealing with building a notion of self, I was having difficulty building mine when it came to who I was, why I was here, and what my place was in this world.”

As an only child, Sophie mentions feeling a special kind of pressure. “You are trying to answer to so many things that are asked of you and you’re trying to perform. I know I wanted to be good at everything. I did well in school and sports and tended to be a perfectionist. Actually, I was asking way too much of myself.”

Sophie notes that adolescence is a time, especially for girls, when bonding and intimate relationships are at the core of building self esteem. She recognizes that her desire to excel compensated for a deeper need to connect. “It’s very important to have a good social network. When I struggled for years with an eating disorder, I knew very well what I was suffering from. Every time I was into binging and purging, I was really feeling isolated in my mind and deep down somewhere in my soul. Today, as a thirty-six year old woman, and now a mother of two, I understand that I was looking for something deeper back then — for my place in the world. I had wanted to pack my bags, and just travel and explore,” she says laughing, “but obviously, you have to go to school, and there are rules to follow. But what I really wanted to do was connect with human beings.”

Raised by parents who were always sensitive to the suffering of others had its effect. Sophie mentions that even at a young age she naturally extended herself to children who were lonely or being taunted. “My parents always said I had a tender heart. And today, I’m married to someone who’s like that, too. My husband, Justin, and I are both moved easily. We know how fortunate we are, and that it comes with a responsibility. I also felt at a young age — although I couldn’t put my finger it — that I had to do something greater. Not just for me,” Sophie says, pausing to reassess, “but you know, actually it was for me — for me to become the person that I wanted to become. But when you’re a teenager, that’s all blurry, which is normal.”

After studying Commerce at McGill University and attaining a BA in Communications from the Université de Montréal, Sophie worked in advertising and sales for several years before deciding to redirect her course. “I was not finding my place in that world, and I wasn’t feeling happy in my jobs. At one point, I decided to go to radio and television school because I had a gift for sharing information and for speaking to people. So I went to school and did very well. I landed my first job as a journalist in a newsroom, writing the ticker — the news you see at the bottom of the screen. I worked night shifts and it was actually a cool job. Being in the newsroom was exciting — you’re in touch with what’s happening around the world so it was all very interesting. And then, a couple of months later, there was an opening for a cultural entertainment reporter on the same channel. I was called in to audition, and I got the job.”

Being a media personality provided Sophie with an additional opportunity to connect with people, but now on a much grander scale. Literally having a voice that could reach millions of viewers, Sophie disclosed she had struggled with an eating disorder. “I remembered journalists asking me, ‘Have you ever had a problem with your body image?’ When I actually told the Quebec and the Canadian public that I had suffered from an eating disorder, the response was so amazing. At first, some people would ask, ‘Were you completely insane when you came out with that? Didn’t you wonder what people would think?’ And to be honest with you, No. Because I knew that so many of my friends and so many girls that I didn’t know were suffering. And from that point, it became a snowball effect. I started giving speeches and being invited to host events. And as more time passed, I really started to invest myself in women’s issues.”

As Sophie notes, she moved into advocacy work as a matter of course. “I didn’t wake up one morning saying, ‘Okay, now I’m going to do this.’ It just came naturally. I started to get more and more requests to speak. What really struck me was the response I received when I met people after a speech, and how the women — mothers, aunts, grandmothers — came up to me with tears in their eyes and shared their stories. It just all made sense. The message became loud and clear: This is what you have to do.

Telling her own story was just the beginning. The open doorway Sophie provided, allowing people insight into her personal struggles, proved to be the passage she used to venture out into the world, acting as a voice for women and children in need.

One journey that was especially moving for Sophie was the trip she took to Ethiopia in 2006 with her mother-in-law Margaret Trudeau, Honorary President of WaterCan, a leading Canadian charity dedicated to fighting global poverty by helping the world’s poorest people gain access to clean water, basic sanitation and hygiene education. Their life-changing venture was captured in the CTV documentary, A Window Opens: Margaret and Sophie in Ethiopia.

As Sophie explains, the trip to Ethiopia with WaterCangave her further insight into the difficulties people were facing. “I had been to Africa and had seen suffering,” Sophie remarks, “but not in the way that I did in Ethiopia. We traveled through the country with WaterCan, an organization which among other things, builds wells and brings clean water to remote regions in Africa. When we were traveling, we stayed with families for many hours during the day, and we saw that women were actually victims of the water problem more than men. That’s because they’re the ones who usually fetch the water and put their lives in danger, walking miles and miles and sometimes meeting up with violence. Little children are also walking way too far and are involved in accidents. So once again, when it comes to basic human rights, women and children are often the first ones to pay.”

Sophie has also lent her voice to a number of other initiatives, including being a spokesperson for Shield of Athena, an organization which operates therapeutic services for women and children who are victims of domestic abuse and violence. Among their services, they provide emergency housing and offer a safe and empowering environment, employing social workers, educators and cultural intermediaries who offer multilingual services. In addition, Sophie encourages girls’ activism through Girls for the Cure, a student-led initiative of young girls from six independent Montreal-area schools — Miss Edgar’s and Miss Cramp’s School, Queen of Angels Academy, Sacred Heart School of Montreal, The Study, Trafalgar School for Girls and Villa Maria — who work together to make a difference in their communities. They offer a Student Scholarship Program which allows young women of participating schools the opportunity to develop projects focused on philanthropy, volunteerism and education. “In September, Girls for the Cure [watch the 2010 CTV video] will be doing an amazing event where thousands of girls will be uniting on Mount Royal Summit in Montreal,” Sophie informs. “They’ll be walking to raise awareness for women-related cancers and research.”

As Sophie clearly indicates, women’s issues are of primary importance to her, both in Canada and around the globe. She points out that even today, in 2011, over sixty million girls cannot lay claim to basic human rights, including access to education or personal safety. “When you think deeply about it, women today are being raped, violated, coerced into the sex trade, and humiliated for one reason — and for one reason only — because they’re women. That is unacceptable. And we’re paying the price worldwide since nations are becoming impoverished because women cannot fully participate. Obviously, there are some regions in the world where this problem is extreme, like in China and India, where we’re talking gendercide and infanticide with regard to girls. The situation is quite alarming. If you read the facts and know what’s going on out there, there’s no way that you’re not going to be touched by all of this, especially if you’re a woman.”

At the same time, Sophie acknowledges the importance of men’s participation regarding women’s rights. Respecting women and focusing on their empowerment does not represent a ‘women against men’ issue, but rather only helps to create a balanced approach to human rights in all sectors of life. “Each time I get to address an audience, and I see the men that attend these events, I always thank them because without them, without all of us holding hands together, where are we going to go with all this?”

As Sophie indicates, more men need to advocate for girls and women in order to turn the tide. “Unfortunately, when we talk about these problems, about gendercide and crimes against girls and women, especially within some regions of the world, these extreme actions have often been led by men. Obviously, there have been some instances, especially with regard to female genital mutilation, where it’s a vicious cycle. Women who have not known anything else actually encourage young girls and other women to get that sort of thing done.”

Nonetheless, the pendulum has been stuck on the side of patriarchy a bit too long. There’s no doubt that it’s an unbalanced paradigm, with disregard for the feminine creating its own deficit problem.

“I truly believe humanity is facing a huge imbalance between the male and female energies,” Sophie asserts. “We have disrespected, in such a deep way, the womb of humanity — women — and we are paying the price right now on all levels. We’re even seeing it in our pop culture. It’s so in our faces that it’s kind of hidden at the same time, because we’ve become accepting of it. Talking with young girls, I realize that there’s a culture of self-hatred that really has been rampant, and it’s actually normal to hate yourself when you’re a teenager today. That’s unacceptable. That is why we have to address these issues, and we have to do it locally, one baby step at a time.”

And those baby steps have led to much bigger strides. As Sophie travels have informed her, more and more women are coming to the fore around the globe, supporting one another and advocating for their basic human rights. “There are women’s movements all over the world, including in the poorest regions and places where women have not had a political voice,” Sophie states. “I think that’s because we’re in an era of information. These women now have more of the facts and they realize this is not right. So as much as in Canada as abroad, I think that these little cells of women, of energy, are feeling one another. I don’t want to sound too esoteric, but there’s definitely something remarkable happening and more and more men are beginning to address the situation. And fortunately enough, I’m with a man who shares my values and thoughts, and obviously part of his battle will be dealing this issue as well.”

Adding more women to the mix seems not only rational, but essential. Sophie emphasizes the importance of women’s roles as leaders, whether in politics, education, or any other sector of society, noting that women bring certain qualities to the table that benefit the whole.

“You know, there’s a reason why there are more women in volunteer work,” Sophie remarks. “There’s a reason why there are more women in social work. The reason is because in times of struggle, we tend to open our arms and build a social network, to come out with our problems and to talk about them because we need to. Also, women leaders have been shown to be more compassionate colleagues. Generally speaking, that’s been demonstrated. Of course, many women are occupying amazing roles in society, but there’s still a huge gap in the financial world and the political world.”

Sophie indicates it’s really about our future. Her panoramic view takes in the larger sphere of the human family where additional women in leadership means a more balanced paradigm, one that would help us take the next step as a noble humanity. That includes peace resolution work as well.

“You know, I don’t want to fall into a cliché because there are clichés out there,” Sophie notes, “but yes, I do believe that women have certain qualities — especially when you’ve become a mother or you go through your own struggles — that have allowed us to build a larger tribe to face our problems. And once again, if I go back to volunteer work, social work, health care, or nursing, I think there are a lot more women doing these types of things because some part of our bodies, not just our minds, are meant to create peace around us and to foster democracy and justice.”

Philosophically speaking, Sophie notes that we all have masculine and feminine qualities, and our internal dynamics have often set the stage for the larger societal problems we face. “When it comes to talking about gender discrimination, I think that the first thing you have to ask yourself if you’re a woman is how do I treat the man in me? And if you’re a man, it would be how do I treat the woman in me? I think that’s the first question you need to ask yourself, and the answer probably indicates how, as a human being, you interact with your environment as well as how you perceive others and the world around you.”

Sophie also enhances awareness of gender discrimination in her role as national ambassador for Plan Canada.

Plan International’s Because I am a Girl initiative is a social movement to unleash the power of girls and women to claim a brighter future for girls in the developing world.

And just why is focusing on girls’ empowerment so important?

“Helping young girls throughout this world is really at the core of the issue,” Sophie asserts. “First of all, we need to stand up for the millions of girls around the world who face barriers to their survival, basic rights and their ability to develop simply because they are young women. And when we invest in them we are directly reducing global poverty and suffering for the whole, for all of society. It’s incredible that right now, over sixty-five million girls are being denied even a basic education.”

          Girls and women are particularly affected by poverty. This is partly because they have less power to fight it, less access to the means to overcome it, or their entire families are suffering in poverty. Being born underweight, given little or poor-quality food and having little or no education can prevent girls from developing properly. Poverty can also force girls to work or get married at young age instead of going to school.        Plan Canada

“Plan Canada really believes in the Because I am a Girl project. We really want all young Canadian women to be aware of what’s happening because we feel that we have the power, the tools and the democracy to create movements that can help abroad and bring about social change.”

Girls advocating, giving public talks, driving transformative agendas . . . Plan Canada’s Because I am a Girl clubs and speakers bureau engage girls to do just that, empowering and supporting their efforts to stand up for girls’ rights at home and abroad. “The girls give speeches and are really creating a social movement with others their age. There are website blogs and fundraisers and there’s also been a documentary made. So they’re using different kinds of media to really get out there and reach out to each other.”

With regard to Plan International’s other initiatives, Sophie explains there are current projects such as the one in Bangladesh, which supports human rights, including the protections of women and girls. She also mentions the Early Girl Child Marriage Project in Kenya which works to protect girls from this illegal practice. “There have been some documented impacts,” Sophie indicates, “and they have seen a reduction in teenage pregnancies and marriages. Also, in Burkina Faso, there’s a program called BRIGHT — Burkinabé Response to Improve Girls Chances to Succeed. So once again, it’s about education. Obviously, when you get to girls, you’re also getting to young boys and their families. So we’re trying to change parental views on girls’ education as well. That’s where it starts. If a girl is not educated you’re losing her whole soul and heart and mind. Not being educated means a girl isn’t able to fully participate in society, and the nation will be paying the price for that on every level.”

Plan Canada has also championed the presentation of a motion which was passed by the Canadian Parliament, proposing the creation of a UN Resolution proclaiming September 22nd as the International Day of the Girl.

“I think that because of the privileges we have here in Canada, we need to be leading the way on this matter,” Sophie states. Spearheading the initiative, Canada has now established the groundwork for a global movement. In fact, the call for the International Day of the Girl is imminent and can also be supported by signing the Girl Petition.

As Sophie reflects on her own advocacy work dealing with women and children’s issues, she remarks pointedly that no matter who she meets or what type of position they may hold, there’s are certain type of person that inspires and impresses her. “Women following their own passion. Their message and their energy are completely contagious.”

As eTalk’s Quebec correspondent, Sophie is also in a unique position to not only inform but to do her own brand of inspiring. “This job is an amazing tool and a window for me to connect with youth because so many of them watch the show. Besides doing interviews, I also talk a lot about the responsibility of public personas and stars to use their voices for something important because young people look up to them so much. And there are some people in the entertainment industry who are doing amazing things. I would say that celebrities like Angelina and Brad are putting it out there that it’s important to do things to make this world a better place. I also know many other celebrities who have started fundraisers and foundations and who are doing great work.”

Sophie also mentions finding inspiration through many adventurous avenues. She plays flute and guitar, composes songs, and loves to sing (perhaps we’ll hear her sing at an event one day).

“I also get inspired a lot from my yoga practice,” she reveals. “I think that it brings me to that little person inside of me that’s the same as in everyone else. As yoga philosophy mentions, that person is in a continuous state of gratitude and peace . . . a person that’s both male and female — the perfect balance between the two. Then there’s the feeling yoga gives me of being connected to everyone — from the people in my class to every human being on this planet. It’s a feeling that really pushes me on a deep, deep level. Also, in yoga practice, there’s always this little voice that comes across in its own language and vibration that makes me feel that everything is going to be okay. That good does prevail.”

Idealistic and passionate, Sophie inspires in a way that is both personal and touching. Even as she reflects on the advice she would give her own children, one can’t help but think that, on a universal level, the message is meant for all of us.

“If I were to say one thing to my little ones, I think I would tell them that the only word to live by is love . . . self love and love for humanity.”

As a reporter, an advocate, a wife and a mother, Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau is a woman whose struggles have awakened her heart to the world, allowing compassion and tenderness to direct her course . . . a woman who understands that the light of courage is far more powerful than any darkness.

*******

Photo Credits:  Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau headshot – Courtesy of CTV, Bell Media. Photo of Margaret Trudeau and Sophie in Ethiopia – Peter Bregg, 2006. Photo of Mutsumi Takahashi of CTV News, Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau and Elena Kratsios – Courtesy of Girls for the Cure. Because I am a Girl Ambassador photo – Courtesy of Plan Canada.

Article written by Angelina Perri Birney, author of the blog, Powerful Women Changing the World, dedicated to women’s influence on world affairs. Angelina is also coauthor of the novel, PURE VISION: The Magdalene Revelation, available in print and as an eBook on Amazon US, Amazon Canada, Amazon UK, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Apple.

 

      When you give women power, you are assuring the progress of humanity.                         — Former Governor General of Canada Michaëlle Jean   

Almas Jiwani

Jumpstarting the progression of women’s rights throughout the world is no easy task. Gender equality is a cool and clinical term for a fundamental and essential right –- the right for women and girls worldwide to live free of discrimination, violence and poverty. Championing the challenge, UN Women has been in the forefront working throughout the world to secure women’s equality and empowerment.

The National Committee for UN Women Canada is an independent, non-governmental entity that supports the mission of UN Women. The organization is definitely making landmark strides in supporting the United Nations in its efforts, not only in Canada, but throughout the world. Almas Jiwani, President of UN Women Canada, exemplifies inspiration in action. A renowned humanitarian and enterprising entrepreneur, she is dedicated to the advancement of women’s rights at home and throughout the world.

As Almas relates, her resourcefulness and desire to serve a greater good developed early in her life. “I immigrated to Canada with my family in my early teens from Zaire, now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We were leaving a region where political, humanitarian, and democratic institutions were collapsing. Arriving in Canada, we began rebuilding our lives, learning to navigate Canadian culture and practices and to integrate our own culture and faith.”

Almas also mentions that as newcomers and minorities, her family faced challenges but also experienced great opportunities. “At that time of my life, I realized that many communities in the developing world were apathetic towards women and did not allow them an environment for their social and intellectual growth. I also realized the importance of making a difference in the lives of the underprivileged, alleviating poverty, and uplifting women in society. This realization inspired me to begin volunteering with initiatives to promote women and advocate for their empowerment. I then became very involved with the Aga Khan Council for Canada with their various projects and portfolios. As a young teenager, facing the challenges of integrating into a new community, I made a commitment to do all in my capacity to ensure that women live as equals.”

Eventually, when Almas was making a presentation to community members in Vancouver, the president of a corporate company approached her and asked, Did you know that you have a hidden selling talent? “I felt offended, believe it or not, and he was actually trying to compliment me,” she remarks. “Then he called me a trooper—I didn’t know the meaning of the word trooper at the time—and introduced me to someone who was involved in a multimedia business. I remember being told, ‘You know what Almas, you will knock on ten doors—cold calls are extremely difficult—but eventually a door will open.’ I always remembered that message and use it in my speeches with regard to empowering women. Even if you’ve knocked on ten doors, don’t give up because the eleventh door may open for you.”

Still in all, Almas’ initial media endeavor didn’t last too long. “Being young, and having no clue . . . My dad passed away when I was eleven years old . . . I was like a one woman show. I had no idea who to talk to or who to confide in. I was doing everything on my own. It was a huge risk.” But being a risk-taker is Almas’ forte. She then ventured into international trading for a while until turning down her current road — President and CEO of Frontier Canada Inc., a corporate communications company.

Accomplished in both business and in the humanitarian field, Almas has also offered her volunteer efforts at the international level for the past nine years. “As I mentioned, I was involved with the Aga Khan Council and one of our mandates was to settle Afghan Ismaili refugees who were arriving in Canada and help the people integrate into the community and society. I was the national settlement vice chair. During the course of this, I had to attend a couple of government meetings and I guess people began to notice me. Eventually I was elected to be a member of the Board of Directors of UNIFEM Canada, and after several years, I undertook leadership in June 2009.”

Almas Jiwani and Michaëlle Jean

The efforts of both Almas and the Board has taken UN Women Canada into new territories, expanding their efforts to promote gender equality in more sections of Canada than at any other time in the organization’s eighteen year history. Almas especially notes that in 2010, a year after becoming president, she had the honor of presenting the prestigious UNIFEM CANADA Award to Her Excellency Michaëlle Jean during her term as Governor General of Canada . . . the ideal candidate because of her extensive involvement in advancing the issue of gender equality in various capacities around the world.

And just as Almas reorganized the National Committee in Canada, the United Nations also restructured its efforts to establish women’s rights around the globe by creating a new, overarching entity:  UN Women.

“UN Women — United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women — is charged with advancing gender equality,” Almas states. “It was established by a General Assembly Resolution in 2010, and became operational on January 1, 2011. We had our first official launch on February 24th in New York. Now, UN Women is operating under the auspices of Under-Secretary-General Michelle Bachelet (former President of Chile).”

As Almas notes, the creation of UN Women came about as part of the UN reform agenda. Its main objective is to connect resources and mandates for greater overall impact and to accelerate progress towards the goal of gender equality. This includes increasing women’s economic empowerment and leadership as well as bringing women to the center of peace and security issues. UN Women is the result of the cohesive merging of four previously distinct parts of the UN system:

  • Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW)
  • International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW)
  • Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women (OSAGI)
  • United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM)

“UN Women’s work today builds on the strong foundation of these four parts and represents a movement to put gender equality on par with other development priorities,” Almas explains. “It represents a stronger voice for women in the United Nations and a greater advocate for larger financial investments to support gender equality initiatives. UN Women will serve as a dynamic and strong champion for women and girls and we will provide them with a powerful voice at the global, regional, and local levels.”

As one of UN Women’s independent, non-governmental National Committees, UN WOMEN CANADA (previously UNIFEM Canada), founded in 1993, is a volunteer-driven organization. As Almas explains, UN Women Canada’s key strategies of advocacy, awareness and fundraising are implemented through the following initiatives:

  • Executing advocacy and media campaigns
  • An annual Award Fundraising Gala
  • Collaborating with public education platforms
  • Public speaking opportunities
  • Building membership drives and campaigns
  • Partnering with private and public sector funding
  • A Youth Development Conference

“This year, we have hosted five successful launches in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Papineau, QC, and Winnipeg to raise awareness of UN Women, and more launches are planned,” Almas informs. “We are also putting together a prestigious black tie fundraising gala and a youth conference to engage and empower young Canadians in actions that will advance the gender equality mission. The bottom line is we want to raise awareness and ensure that everyone knows what UN Women is all about and what our goals are.”

One of these goals, women’s economic empowerment, is of primary importance to Almas. Without it, many women continuously face a vicious cycle. “Women bear a disproportionate burden of the world’s poverty,” Almas asserts. “Statistics indicate that women are more likely than men to be poor and at risk of hunger because of the systematic discrimination they face in education, health care, employment and control of assets. Poverty implications are widespread for women, leaving many without even basic rights such as access to clean drinking water, sanitation, medical care and decent employment. Being poor can also mean that they have little protection from violence and have no role, absolutely no role, in decision making.”

According to some estimates, women represent 70 percent of the world’s poor. They are often paid less than men for their work, with the average wage gap in 2008 being 17 percent. “Women face persistent discrimination,” Almas remarks, “not only in developing countries but also in the developed world when they apply for credit for business or self-employment. They are also often concentrated in insecure, unsafe and low-wage work.”

And just how does the present economic crisis affect women in the work arena? What special difficulties does it present?

“The current financial crisis is likely to affect women particularly severely,” Almas maintains. “In many developing countries where women work in export-led factories, or in countries where migrant women workers are the backbone of service industries, women’s jobs have taken the greatest hit. When there’s a recession, women are the first to be laid off.”

And the proof is in the statistics. In 2009, the International Labour Organization estimated that the economic downturn could lead to somewhere around 22 million more unemployed women, jeopardizing the gains made in the last few decades in women’s empowerment. In addition, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) forecasted that women’s unemployment would accelerate at a faster rate than men’s throughout 2010 as the crisis continued to affect female-dominated industries such as manufacturing and tourism.

So that leaves us with getting down to the basics: A fundamental ingredient to advancing women’s human rights and economic stability lay in obtaining monies for the endeavour, as well as initiating awareness that investing in women creates a win-win situation. “Financing for gender equality is more than just securing resources and funding for institutions such as national women’s organizations and gender equality projects,” Almas recognizes. “To accomplish sustainable and deep-rooted changes, financing for gender equality must recognize women as active economic agents that are central to a vibrant economy.”

Empowering women fuels thriving economies, spurring productivity and growth.

Almas explains that gender-responsive budgeting can make a huge difference in how governments allocate funds. “A budget is the most comprehensive statement of a government’s social and economic plans and priorities. In tracking where the money comes from and where it goes, budgets determine how public funds are raised, how they are used, and who benefits from them.”

Although women’s empowerment is the focus, Almas emphasizes that gender-responsive budgeting is not about creating separate budgets for women. “I believe a gender-responsive budget should recognize the ways which women contribute to society and the economy,” Almas adds, “including through their unpaid labor in bearing and rearing children and caring for the people in the country—that’s my perception. I also feel it’s important that people see the benefits that can be derived from supporting gender-based budgeting. Seeing the benefits will encourage further support.”

Yet, it appears the most lucrative changes will occur when those power brokers steering the world economy start practicing as well as implementing changes to purge a system beset by imbalance and corruption. Nothing short of corporate catharsis will do the trick. Those sitting on top of the economic stockpile need a dose of gender equity to help provide balance in how, where, and how much funds are allocated and if women’s rights are part of the picture.

To that end, Almas relates that when making a presentation at the World Bank, she was confronted with a question regarding the prevalence of corruption within governments worldwide. “I answered by saying, ‘Let me present a counter question: How many women are sitting on your Board making decisions?’ They were silent. ‘Zero . . . that’s the answer. You want to prevent corruption, have more women on the Board. Give them the power to influence the policies and you’ll see the difference.”

In addition to supporting gender-responsive budgeting initiatives, UN Women also works to strengthen women’s rights to land and inheritance. Almas describes the struggles women face when these rights are denied.

“In many countries around the world, women’s property rights are limited by social norms, customs and at times legislation,” Almas states, “hampering their economic status and opportunities to overcome poverty. Even in countries where women constitute the majority of small farmers and do more than 75 percent of the agricultural work, they are routinely denied the right to own the land they cultivate and which they are dependent upon to raise their families. Ownership of land and property empowers women and provides income and security. Without resources such as land, women have limited say in household decision-making, and no recourse to the assets during a crisis. This often relates to other vulnerabilities such as domestic violence, HIV and AIDS.”

In other words, in most countries in the world, property rights provide protection and security. Often denied these rights, women fall victim to rejection and destitution. “In regions of conflict, the impact of unequal land rights has particularly serious consequences for women — often the only survivors,” Almas notes. “In conflict and post-conflict situations, the number of women-headed households often increases sharply as many men have either been killed or are absent. Without their husbands, brothers or fathers — in whose name land and property titles are traditionally held — they find themselves denied access to their homes and fields by male family members, former in-laws or neighbors. Without the security of a home or income, women and their families fall into poverty traps and struggle for livelihoods, education, sanitation, health care, and other basic rights.”

International agreements already underscore the importance of women’s land and property rights. The Beijing Platform for Action affirms that women’s right to inheritance and ownership of land and property should be recognized. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) has addressed it as well regarding rural women’s rights to equal treatment in land and agrarian reform processes. In addition, women’s property rights are essential to realizing the Millennium Development Goals, specifically the goals of eradicating extreme poverty and achieving gender equality.

Almas also describes how globalization has contributed to an increasing flow of migrant workers from countries with limited economic opportunities. Women migrant workers, whose numbers have been increasing, now constitute 50 percent or more of the migrant workforce in Asia and Latin America.

“By creating new economic opportunities, migration can promote economic independence and status for women workers, who are often sustaining communities at home,” Almas states. “Studies indicate that migrant women workers contribute to the development of both sending and receiving countries — remittances from their incomes account for as much as 10 percent of the GDP in some countries. In 2008, remittances were estimated by the World Bank at US $305 billion. These monetary investments — used for food, housing, education and medical services — along with newly acquired skills of returnees, can potentially contribute significantly to poverty reduction and the Millennium Development Goals.”

But migration is also a risky endeavor for women, many of whom end up at the lower end of the job market. “Female migrants often work as domestic workers and entertainers — a euphemism for sex workers — in unregulated informal sectors that do not fall under national labor laws,” Almas states. “Migrant women routinely lack access to social services and legal protection and are subjected to abuses such as harsh working and living conditions, low wages, illegal withholding of wages and premature termination of employment. The worst abuses force women into sexual slavery.”

For these reasons, UN Women focuses on promoting safe migration for women around the world. It works with governments and civil society to eliminate trafficking and establish laws that protect the human rights of women migrants as well as strengthen migrants’ organizations. Since due to economic stress, women are venturing all the more to obtain livelihoods in countries other than their own, national poverty reduction programs in their homeland, including the advancement of women’s rights and ability to procure a decent living would be actions well worth pursuing to remedy the problem.

So it appears that for lasting change to take hold concepts of women’s economic viability need to change. How are women’s equality and their economic empowerment connected to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals?

UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet visiting with the women of Panama

“The statistical data at the UN reveals that the majority of Millennium Development Goals such as literacy, alleviation of poverty, access to maternal health care, reduction of childhood mortality, environmental sustainability, and the eradication of HIV/ AIDS and Malaria are all inextricably tied to gender equality and women’s empowerment,” Almas declares. “I believe that the investment in gender equality is an essential characteristic of secure and efficient societies. Presently, women and girls make up more than half of the world’s population. Yet most women are discriminated against, mistreated and deprived of their basic human rights. For this reason, gender equality needs to be regarded as a moral imperative and an urgent priority in all regions. UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon, consistently emphasizes the necessity for the empowerment of women. The notion of gender-based budgeting and investment in international development projects is no longer a concession but a compulsion.”

In addition, Almas emphasizes that in societies where women have equal access to economic assets, decent livelihoods and a voice in decision-making, the economies are stronger, maternal mortality rate drops, and child nutrition improves. “Therefore, gender equality lies at the core of this issue,” she stresses. “If we want to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, we need to mainstream gender equality in developing countries. Without accomplishing this on a global scale, we will continue to ignore the plight of almost half the world’s population.”

There also appears to be a direct link between women’s economic security and an individual country’s peace and security issues. “We can clearly notice that in countries where gender equality has been mainstreamed into economic, political, social, educational, and literary arenas, such as in the USA, UK, and Canada, the economic progress of those countries increased by significant margins. Also, case-studies that include Afghanistan, Iraq and Rwanda reveal that when women are empowered economically, the country’s economy and state structure flourish. Yet, we also can see that when war and insecurity plagues these countries, any reforms or gains toward gender equality deteriorates . . . and the abuse of women’s human rights increases immensely.”

With regard to post-conflict situations, Almas notes that in Rwanda, women now make up more than 70% of the Parliamentarians. In that climate, the status of women’s economic opportunities rose. “After the resolution of the Hutu-Tutsi tribal violence in Rwanda, the United Nations and the Rwandan Government worked together to ensure gender equality, and the proper representation of women. Thus, in this time of peace, we observe a significant presence of lucrative economic opportunities for women.”

Throughout all the losses and gains, women’s groups large and small have been coming to the fore around the world in amazing numbers. Almas takes a look at the phenomenon and its effect on the progression of women’s rights. “Years of advocacy by the global women’s movement have been instrumental in the creation of UN Women,” Almas recognizes. “Civil society, in particular women’s organizations, play a vital role in promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment. Strong relationships between UN Women and partners from all over the world are crucial in working towards achieving these goals. So together, we can become a much stronger voice and make a more powerful impact.”

Almas refers to the current predominance of women’s rights groups flourishing around the world as a “ripple effect.” In many places, whether in the developing world such as in South or Central Asia, Africa and Latin America, or in the developed Western countries, the issues of gender equality and the progress being made in the realm of women’s rights has really struck a chord with most women.

“As a result, we have noticed exponential growth in women’s grassroots movements on the ground in the developing world,” Almas informs, “whether it’s regarding a battle for land rights, access to health-care, alleviation of poverty or a host of other social justice issues. And in the developed world, where we have overcome the core issues such as poverty and land rights, the women’s rights movement is more focused on parity between women and men in the workforce, women’s access to education, and eradicating the issues of domestic abuse . . . So I personally think that this rippling of women’s equality movements in large numbers is a positive sign. These movements also indicate that more and more women in contemporary society have the opportunity to mobilize together and champion their rights for equality.”

Throughout the years, whether volunteering or in her present sphere as President of UN Women Canada, Almas has found inspiration through her spiritual beliefs as an Ismaili Muslim, as well as from those prominent individuals who have influenced her work.

His Highness the Aga Khan

His Highness the Aga Khan

“I’ve gained much inspiration over the years from many individuals and entities that drive me forward and make me who I am as a leader,” Almas conveys. “Since my childhood, His Highness Aga Khan IV, the Ismaili spiritual leader and humanitarian, has been a huge inspirational source for me. His humanitarian ideals for empowering the underprivileged, educating women, and using civil society as a force for positive change and international development in order to foster an ‘enabling environment’ for those less fortunate is the catalyst that humbles and motivates me to serve the unprivileged women and girls of the world.”

Almas mentions other influential figures that have affected her leadership. “Emily Murphy of the Famous Five and the out-going Governor General of Canada, the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean are exemplary women that I have consistently looked up to for inspiration. These visionaries inspire me with the legacy of women’s equality present in their public service work.”

In addition, Almas also recognizes the Government of Canada and its consistent devotion to the cause of gender equality, as well as UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet and Outreach and Business Development Advisor, Mr. Antoine De Jong as important sources of encouragement. “When I see that our hard work, our time, and our knowledge is impacting and making a difference in the world, it just encourages and inspires me to do more. I want to be that drop in the ocean that makes a big difference.”

Certainly her contributions are worthy of admiration. Almas has brought her whole self to the task, including her spiritual beliefs, her culture, and a CAN DO philosophy that’s extraordinary in measure. In short, Almas Jiwani has recognized that uncertainty is not an excuse for inaction. Her fearless drive has served to motivate others in their own work toward women’s empowerment.

That personal stance is reflected in a quote from the poem, The Road Not Taken, by Robert Frost which Almas finds especially meaningful.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —

I took the one less travelled by.

“I’m a firm believer in taking the road less travelled,” Almas conveys. “Many career women today face a number of obstacles while trying to shatter the glass ceiling. In lieu of these challenges, some women lose hope through the realization of there being no ‘easy’ way out. However, it is only through the trials and tribulations faced on the road not taken that my own inspiration and success has been nurtured. And so, I urge all women and young girls to also embark on this journey. As a result of an innovative and non-traditional approach to life, beset with challenges, I’ve become a stronger woman.”

Of that, we have no doubt.

A number of years ago in Nairobi, at an international business conference where she was a speaker, Almas addressed the audience with words which ring just as true today, embodying the spirit of her approach to life, business and the women’s movement.

“It turned out that I was the only Indian woman speaking at the conference,” Almas relates. “There were seven speakers and I was the last one. I listened to all the other presenters before me and when my time came to talk, I told the audience, I’ve decided I will not read my speech today. I will speak to you guys from my heart. I will tell you how I got myself where I am today — about my challenges and experiences, and with no background education in the field that I’m in. With no training, no guidance, and nobody to tell me what to do. Today, I am here because of perseverance . . because of this passion . . . because I want to make a difference. If I can do it, you guys can do it.’’

The story of her life is the story of her leadership.

Perhaps we can find our own strength by taking those words of encouragement to heart. For those of us questioning whether we have the power to act, we can stop wondering. Just take the plunge, as Almas did, and give it all you’ve got.

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All photos used by permission.

front cover.inddArticle written by Angelina Perri Birney, author of the blog, Powerful Women Changing the World, dedicated to women’s influence on world affairs. Angelina is also coauthor of the novel, PURE VISION: The Magdalene Revelation, available in print and as an eBook on Amazon, Amazon (Canada) Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Apple.


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