Happy New Year from Saigon!
There’s nothing like the arrival of January to spark action. Resolutions, I’ve had a few. The most plausible so far being a commitment to eat and drink more slowly, rather than inhaling meals and bottles of wine as if food rationing and prohibition laws were about to be imposed.
Less plausible resolutions include: writing more; drinking less; reading more; and looking at my phone less.
I say ‘less plausible’ in that I’m fairly confident of being able to strike a balance with objectives like these – it’s just a fear of setting myself up to fail by insisting on rigid, self-imposed restrictions. Moderation, it’s often touted, is key, but then so, too, is our ability to feel in control of what we are doing.
More’s the pity that, in many ways, I simply enjoy so many of these pursuits (including my job, and the ebb and flow of travel and time it requires) that I feel more practice is still required to find a useful daily cadence to accommodate all the ‘things’.
After a year of injury I’m resolute, also, to run more again this year. The theory being the hours spent pounding pavements will, it is hoped, help provide more time and space to think and to feel energized. There is a discipline to this and, once you’ve cracked the code, it can also become an addictive past-time.
Can one over-exercise? I’m not sure I’ll ever be in danger of that, but perhaps the trick here is to find a balance whereby the physical outputs and the resulting endorphins help re-charge purpose elsewhere in your day.
In other news, towards the end of last month – on Friday 21st, in fact – the US Congress passed a piece of bipartisan legislation called the Women’s Entrepreneurship & Economic Empowerment (WEEE) Act. CARE International played a role in getting it across the finish line, with high-level leadership and support from both sides of the aisle. An encouraging reflection of CARE’s convening and consensus-building power, and the credibility of our policy expertise that stems from our deep programmatic experience.
I’ve added in sprinkles about CARE’s work to flavor the discursive and meandering blog posts I’ve put out over the past 7 years because, in so many ways, working for CARE has taught me a lot about myself, as much as it has about the discombobulating world around me.
Above all else, CARE’s continued commitment to strengthening gender equality and women’s voice around world has inspired for me what some of the many opportunities might be in a future society where gender norms are equal and not, instead, so heavily bent in favour of men and boys.
CARE’s global strategy behind this work aims to help 30 million women gain greater access to, and control over, economic resources by 2020. This past year, we have worked to advance these goals through a variety of US policy efforts, but the centerpiece has been the WEEE Act. This bill improves USAID programs and activities that focus on women’s entrepreneurship and economic empowerment globally. It expands access to tools, resources, and skills for women entrepreneurs, emphasizing financial inclusion, which is critical for the one billion women left out of the global banking system.
Two things occurred to me when reading about the WEEE Act:-
Firstly, no one is treating this Act as a final solution. There is a long way to go before organisations and power brokering ambassadors for gender equality put down their tools and consider the job done;
Second, that the dogged and determined nature of how many organisations, including CARE, seek these types of outcomes, encapsulates a grit and a resiliency that these same organisations have been privileged enough to have learnt about from the very people we are seeking to support.
Every day CARE teams meet with, talk with, listen to, and learn from thousands of people: female entrepreneurs; youth groups; local community spokes-people; teachers; midwives; street-vendors; local business owners; factory workers; tea plantation pickers; young mothers; elderly grandfathers.
Our organizational ‘DNA’ relies on our ability to convene, connect and put into practice over 73 years worth of knowledge gained from all of these individuals and groups.
To “keep on keeping on” is a phrase not well documented in terms of its origin, but often now found emblazoned on t-shirts. The trendy livery of the ‘Keep Calm’ franchise and, in many ways, a subtle call to action that has lasting connotations – whether one is influencing policy agendas and tackling entrenched societal constructs or, as the second day of 2019 unfolds, one is contemplating work-life balance, and a dedication to self-maintenance and clarity of purpose.
The enormity of the challenges laid out on the collective plate of humanity very probably need to be tackled in bite-sized pieces. They each almost certainly need to be met with the type of persistence and spirit that to keep on keeping on conjures up in my imagination when I hear those words.
As consistent as the ferry which crosses the river just north of my house here in Saigon, dutifully turning itself around time after time to complete its three minute journey, and affording me a well needed break from my dawn run; as reliable as the most dedicated of CARE’s project managers, grinding out the scant hours they have to complete their tasks; as driven as the poorest of local small-holder fishermen, up on the Vietnamese coast, repairing nets and casting off in the dead of night for tomorrow’s catch; as predictably macabre and inspiring, in equal doses, how each and every woman and girl around the world wakes up and breathes in their day’s agenda, and the hurdles ahead.
All of these realities, each of us. As regular as clockwork itself – just keep going.
Just Keep Going.