I had the amazing opportunity to attend the first ever AYA Summit this week, run by the ONE Campaign. I interviewed women from all over the country about their desire to help those less fortunate, and they’re doing so using their personal blogs. It’s a unique approach, that’s reaching millions of people and bringing about real change.
Women from all over the country came to DC this week, their laptops in tow, to attend a bloggers conference. But it’s not your average tech summit; these women are writing to make a difference.
It’s called the AYA Summit, Aya, is a West African fern that represents resilience, strength and endurance; all perfect descriptions for the women who attended the event. These women are part of a new breed of activists, they are advocates and fighters. Their weapons of choice? Laptops.
“I’m here just with about 80 of my favorite online personalities,” says blogger Karen Walrond. “We are going to learn a lot about what one is doing to help fight poverty and preventable disease.”
The ONE Girls and Women Campaign, run by ONE, is hosting the AYA Summit this week to focus on global development issues, primarily in Africa. These women are all bloggers, but they’re not writing your typical mommy-blogs. “We are learning about issues that affect girls and women around the world so we can all get into action and see how we can make connections one to one,” says Emily McKhann, a blogger.
They’re inspired from their everyday lives to make a difference in all corners of the world. Patricia Amira is a television host in Nairobi, she’s at the event to help the bloggers make the connection. “You get an opportunity like this with people like ONE who are advocates and they have an incredible reach, their social bloggers and digital influencers, getting in and spreading the word so that people understand,” says Amira. “But they will also take it and put it into the context that will be better understood across the Americas, I leave it up to them because they know what they are doing.”
They’re all here brainstorming, talking and getting inspired to ignite change. Many of them are mothers, like Emily McKhann of TheMotherhood.com. “I care because I have two girls of my own, and I want them to grow up to be global citizens,” says McKhann. “But if we can make things better for girls growing up, if they can wait a little longer before they have babies and grow up and get an education, that their communities will be better.”
Karen Walrond is another blogger for the site, Chookooloonks. “We all started blogging because we love the story and we loved sharing our stories, stories connect no matter who we are no matter where we are,” says Walrond. “I’m so passionate about the ONE Campaign. It’s the only organization I’ve worked with that seems to get better every year.”
The combined audiences of their blogs exceed 45 million and 28 states; that kind of reach is priceless. “So when someone says on their blog, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, you name it, that they really care about a cause and here’s why; their friends online want to hear it. Because these are their friends and that ripple effect is huge,” says McKhann.
Author C.C. Chapman, a man in a sea of women, is here speaking on a panel. Chapman knows the power these women have, they’re from every walk of life, but they all have one thing in common: “They realize they have a voice, whether it’s their blog or it’s their book, they want to make sure they are doing something more than just for themselves,” says Chapman. “Most of us in this room are parents ourselves, we’ve got kids, we understand what it’s like to be a parent. So the moms and dads realize not everyone across the world has that opportunity that their kids are going to grow up. As a parent, that’s the scariest thing to think about their kid getting sick. So we just want to make sure we are using our audiences for something more than just ourselves.”
Technology makes us all neighbors, and these women are making it their mission to use their power for good. “That’s what it’s all about isn’t it? People coming together, empowering working together. You can’t do it all on your own, can you?” Says Amira.
Most everyone at the summit has traveled to Africa and has seen the need first hand. But even those who have never been to Africa and probably never will, say everything going on there now only makes them care more. From the kidnappings to Ebola, they just want to help. “It’s horrible that it takes a tragedy to realize how small the world is,” says Chapman.
“That’s why most of them have come to this,” says Amira. “They understand, even though it’s miles away in a completely different continent, with no real context, but they feel it intuitively.”
For more information about the AYA Summit, click here: http://www.one.org/us/2014/10/22/one-girls-and-women-launch-the-first-ever-aya-summit/