This article was created by Marianne Downing, Big Ocean Board Member, for LinkedIn. Click HERE to see the original article.
On the world stage this week a conference is underway in Quito, Ecuador with the intention of setting the new global strategy around urbanization for the next two decades. Habitat III is the third in a series of United Nations led conferences that began in 1976, to “reinvigorate” the global political commitment to the sustainable development of towns, cities and other human settlements, both rural and urban. Habitat III will see representatives from countries throughout the world in addition to three dozen UN agencies.
In the midst of these very high powered players, eight women from the nonprofit organization, Big Ocean are attending Habitat III because of their deep passion for the cause of the family and mothers. They have come to raise their voices to ensure that when decision makers map out our urban and rural futures, that the needs of mothers and families are taken into account.
As they have studied the documents that form the basis of this conference, they have been concerned by the complete lack of any reference to the family in the proposals being put forward; particularly given the long term planning that is taking place. The lack of formal recognition of the family as a powerful entity within this conference has not deterred these determined women but has galvanized them to take action to raise their voices.
The women of Big Ocean are not professionally employed in this cause but are each volunteers who have left families and their jobs to make this commitment to be a voice for mothers and families all over the world. In previous UN conferences they have attended, they have seen the voices of everyday women drowned out by professionals who they feel have lost touch with the grassroots, with women living regular, faith-filled lives.
These women have not just come to Quito to talk and to listen. Every possible minute while in Ecuador is spent networking, sharing and giving humanitarian service. Their journey has not been without drama. Prior to embarking, weeks of preparation were spent to assemble 600 feminine hygiene kits for young women in need in Ecuador, in collaboration with the organization Days for Girls. Each member of the Big Ocean team carried huge suitcases loaded with these kits on their flights to Central America only to have them held by customs in Ecuador, who viewed these large suitcases with colorful packages with suspicion.
The women were faced with a potential disaster when the hotel rooms they had booked well in advance in Quito disappeared mysteriously and they were left without accommodation in a city crammed full of officials from all over the world. These women are intrepid and innovative. As they sat together to strategize they were able to come up with creative solutions for their stay and their journey has been able to continue.
Finally, the Ecuadorian customs released the 14 suitcases packed with the hygiene kits and the Big Ocean women were able to travel deep into Ecuador to distribute them and to connect with women in remote villages with a message of combined womanhood. With smiles and laughter all around they were touched by a message from one villager, “Come back.”
As well as their partnership with Days For Girls, they are also teaming up with two other nonprofits, Choice Humanitarian and Launfal Humanitarian Foundation on a number of projects. In addition to distributing the feminine hygiene kits they will be involved in teaching feminine hygiene at several local schools and foster homes during their stay as well as distributing homemade dolls, toys, and school bags.
Whether those heading the discussions at Habitat III in Ecuador hear the message of these powerful, determined women is unclear but one thing is clear. They are already showing that they will not be deterred from voicing their desire to strengthen women within the family, to strengthen their roles as wives, mothers and women of faith.
They have undertaken this journey with a great deal of faith and perseverance with limited resources. Their costs in attending this conference have been considerable, both personally and financially. If you would like to support these women to help them in their special mission please feel free to donate to Big Ocean via PayPal at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Marianne Downing, Big Ocean Board of Directors