Teachers are Investors of Hope and Power - Brita Fernandez Schmidt

     Brita gave a heartfelt Plenary talk about dealing with marginalized women around the world through her company Women for Women International.    

     She started her speech with an example of a young lady from Ethiopia who touched her heart greatly because of her miserable story and how she was able to help her through Women for Women organization to achieve a small aim that she was looking forward to.

      Brita said she, then, realized that in helping women like this lady, we help them “find hope in the midst of the darkest moments.” You help “change misery into hope”!!

      “This is relevant to what you all do [as teachers]. Hope is linked to knowledge” and this helps people have “a better life, grow and develop….. This hope connects us all….. You as teachers are investing in such hope and power. We can have an impact if we put it in mind. You can be the agents of change to speak out and challenge inequality.” She then, stated Maya Angelou’s quote:

                                     When you get – give
                                     When you learn – teach

She then, mentioned a number of worldwide statistics about women.

       “In Women for Women, we look at women as human beings with human rights, who learn, grow, gain knowledge and sustain income.” When we work with them, we focus on:

n  Building knowledge
n  Basic health education
n  Skills development

Not only that, but we assess their development as well to see how far have they achieved progress and how we can provide more help.

        She also mentioned the importance of local trainers giving two examples from Kosovo and Nigeria, how effective is teaching by doing and the most important thing is the network among women. It empowers them and helps them to have hope and a better outlook for the future. She believes that those women have “enormous resources that we can invest in….. They need us to care for them and say ‘I see you’ and validate their existence.”

        Then she posed a number of lessons learnt from her work for women empowerment inspired by the UN Sustainable Development Goals: 

n  Women bring returns
n  Strong women build strong nations
n  Cash is efficient and effective. It empowers women to make choices about their own investment.
n  Localization is important. We have to work on what suits women locally.
n  Global approach
n  Holistic approach. Efforts are great when combined
n  We must engage women to support women’s rights. She mentioned working with about 21000 men around the world to support women and showed a video from Afghanistan.
n  We need not to leave anyone behind
n  We need to identify and listen to marginalized women. We have to be committed to listening.
n  Identify and invest in the most honourable
n  We need to provide comprehensive and long term support
n  Increase funds
n  Rethink data collected and assess our work.
n  We can all be the change and speak it up. We can be the inspiration and do it for ourselves.

      Finally, after showing a video of a woman from Rwanda who was supported by the organization, she closed her speech with these wonderful words:

      “We can all be an inspiration….I believe, when we are inspired ….then, we find the motivation and power to create the change we want to see and in turn inspire others to do the same.”

Brita Fernandez Schmidt is an advocate and promoter of women’s empowerment, women’s rights and equality. Brita has led several influential women’s organisations and networks. She currently runs Women for Women International - UK as Executive Director.

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