2015 Gates Letter: A Big Bet and a Call for Global Citizens

Fifteen years ago, Bill and Melinda Gates started a foundation with the idea that they could dramatically reduce inequity in the world by supporting innovative work in health and education. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has seen amazing progress since 2000, but 15 years later, they are making their biggest bet yet.

GatesLetter-Quotes-Facebook-11On January 22nd, Bill and Melinda Gates released their 2015 Annual Letter. Their one big bet for the next 15 years: The lives of people in poor countries will improve faster in the next 15 years than at any other time in history. And their lives will improve more than anyone else’s.

Even if you’re not into geeking out on global development like I am, the Gates Letter is a great read. I am sharing the four main breakthroughs and call to action included in the letter, but this post only scratches the surface. I highly encourage you to take a few minutes to read through it. I promise you will learn something.

The breakthroughs they envision include:

Child Deaths will go down, and more diseases will be wiped out.

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Half as many kids will die, far fewer women will die in childbirth, and people will live healthier lives because we’ll beat many of the diseases that sicken the poor.

Africa will be able to feed itself.

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By growing more varied and nutritious food and getting it to the people who need it at the right time, Africa can achieve food security by 2030.

Mobile banking will help the poor radically transform their lives.

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By 2030, 2 billion people who don’t have a bank account today will be storing money and making payment with their phones.

Better software will revolutionize learning.

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As the cost goes down and incomes go up, more people will have the means, and we’ll be well on our way to providing high-quality education for everyone.

A Call for Global Citizens

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While it will take innovative technology and ways to deliver it to those who are in most need to accomplish these breakthroughs, another key component is having global citizens. People who care about helping those in the world’s poorest places improve their lives and who will work together for change. If you’ve read this far into my post and click on over to read the 2015 Gates Annual Letter, you are probably a global citizen.

Take Action

  • Bill and Melinda Gates have started Global Citizen, where you can sign up and get updates on how you can help, share what you’re learning, and connect with other people and organizations who care about similar issues. Some of my favorite organizations are part of this global movement, including, Save the Children, the ONE Campaign, Oxfam and Greenpeace.
  • Read the 2015 Gates Annual Letter in its entirety

I wrote this post as part of the Global Team of 200, a highly specialized group of Mom Bloggers for Social Good members who focus on maternal health, children, hunger, and women and girls.

Photo credits go to Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

The Long Night: The Harsh Truth About Sex Trafficking in the US

“I’d kill the whole world to get my little girl back.”

I felt my chest tighten as I jotted this quote down, tears streaming down my cheeks. I absorbed every bit of this father’s pain at that moment, and yet my reaction couldn’t possibly be anywhere near the true agony this desperate man must have experienced.

The Long Night is a powerful, one-hour documentary film by Tim Matsui that gives voice and meaning to the crisis of minors who are forced and coerced into the American sex trade. The film weaves together the stories of seven people whose lives have been forever changed by this issue.

Natalie - The Long Night

“There wasn’t really much that I think I was running away from at home. I think that I just wanted to rebel. I think that I wanted to not have to listen to rules or have to worry about getting straight A’s for my parents.”
Within 36 hours of leaving home, Natalie was contacted by a ‘bottom girl’ and on her way to being pimped out.

Tom’s beautiful daughter Natalie ran away from home when she was 15 years old. She wasn’t a bad kid, just rebellious. Within days of arriving in Seattle, she was prostituting her virgin body in somebody’s basement.

Natalie returned home after 10 horrific days in Seattle where she was pimped out and raped. Confused and sad and unable to attend school, where her peers called her a whore and a slut, she soon found herself running away once again. And prostitution found her once again.

Tom - The Long Night

“The support that we thought we had with friends, that just stopped. It felt like they looked at us like it was like our fault, like it was something that we had done, as opposed to something that somebody else had done.”
Natalie’s father speaking about how their community responded when she finally returned from the hands of her pimp.

By the end of film, we see Tom driving around to massage parlors asking for young girls as he desperately tries to find his daughter, thoughts of killing pimps running through his brain. At this point, Tom is also an alcoholic. While the family is eventually re-united, it is clear they have a long road ahead of them.

We often think of sex trafficking as a problem in other parts of the world. Reality is that the sex trade is real and active in our own backyard. I recall hearing Cindy McCain, a strong voice fighting human trafficking, telling AYA Summit attendees that we’ve all seen victims, we just don’ realize it.

Lisa - The Long Night

Turned out by a pimp at 13, Lisa only knows one life. The heroin that makes her forget and the tricks she turns to survive.
“I feel like my skin’s crawling right now and it’s like it doesn’t matter how clean I try to get how many showers I take, it doesn’t go away. When I say I’m scared of being sober, I’m scared of the reality of things.”

Since watching the movie, I keep thinking of Lisa, a woman covered in track marks from injecting heroin and scars from cutting. Her addiction to heroin was the only thing that could numb the pain of her life as a sex worker, a harsh life that started when she was just 13-years-old.

I’ve worked in the substance abuse treatment field for 8 years now and Lisa’s story is not that uncommon. Years of abuse and pain have left her a shadow of the person she once was. Struggling to break her drug abuse and with very little support, the odds are stacked against her. Her own mother has pleaded with the public to watch the film so that other girls can be spared the life that Lisa has endured. A life that has no guarantee of continuing if drastic measures aren’t taken. (I believe Lisa is now in jail.)

You also get perspectives from the police who hear “the worst story I have ever heard” every single day on the job.

Joel - The Long Night

Detective Joel Banks on how his police work with trafficking victims affects him.
“It just gets really heavy. You actually kind of have to take a breath, and then we’d say, ‘Man, that’s the worst story I ever heard,’ and then tomorrow comes along, and it’s the next worst story you’ve ever heard.”

I’m not going to lie. I felt somewhat destroyed after watching this movie. It is heavy and hard to watch. Yet it is so important you do.

So what can we do about sex trafficking and its horrific effects? Here are some very simple action steps you can take right now:

  • First, think about your sphere of influence
  • Then, watch The Long Night
  • Like The Long Night’s Facebook page
  • Like Leaving the Life’s Facebook page 
  • Invite your friends to do the same
  • Comment on the film. On your page or on the film’s. Tweet about it.
  • Share a story. Share your own Call to Action.
  • Host a living room screening of the film
  • Bring the film to your PTA  group
  • Integrate the into your schools
  • Call your city officials and ask that they watch the film
  • Get the film to your local police chief
  • Find local victim service providers and ask what they need; socks, meals, donations for their annual fundraiser, they’ll know. And then let your community know what you did, inspire them!
  • Have Leaving the Life come to your municipality to facilitate the co-creation of solutions in day-long convenings. This will take some work, even if you’re the mayor or the county executive.
  • Because it’s all connected, consider donating to your favorite nonprofit working on a social justice issue. This includes Leaving the Life

Will you spend an hour watching The Long Night?

I wrote this post as part of the Global Team of 200, a highly specialized group of Mom Bloggers for Social Good members who focus on maternal health, children, hunger, and women and girls.

Wordless Wednesday: #AYASummit Pictorial

As I shared last Wednesday, I attended the AYA Summit with ONE Girls & Women last week at Google’s offices in Washington DC. It was an amazing gathering of bloggers and panelists, and I am still struggling to find the right words to describe the experience. There will be a post soon though. I promise. For now, I invite you to read the wonderful posts from my dear friends Nicole Morgan (Sisters From Another Mister) and Nicole Melancon (Third Eye Mom). Both have cameos below as well.

[click on the image to enlarge]

aya summit collage

Wordless Wednesday (10.29.14): #AYASummit Pictorial

Linking up with

5 Minutes for Mom
Wordless Wednesday
Wordless Wednesday @ The Jenny Evolution
Curious as a Cathy

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