Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Day in the Life of a Spice Girl

As most of my friends and family know, I am one of the least “cool” woman in the world. I grew up in the ’80s and am very happy with my ’80s music. Oh, sure, a couple of songs have made it to my iPod since then, but they are very few and far between. In fact, the only way I learn about what the kids like today is usually if Ellen has them on her show. And more often then not that’s when I push fast forward on my TiVo.

As a women who is passionate about promoting women, not to mention an international affairs and political junkie, however, I have found my job as the Director of Legislative Affairs for Americans for UNFPA to be a great fit.

Imagine my utter cluelessness when UNFPA announced that it was bringing our good will ambassador, Geri Halliwell to Capitol Hill to lobby on its behalf. I admit that I had to Google her to find out which Spice Girl (Ginger) she was and quizzed all my younger friends about the Spice Girls in general. I had no idea what to expect going into this special lobby day, but as with most things, I was eager to see how it turned out.

I couldn’t have been more impressed with Ms. Halliwell. She was composed, articulate and passionate about saving women’s lives around the world. She freely admitted that when she first was asked to be our ambassador, the connection to the agency was low. But as she traveled to various UNFPA sites and experienced childbirth herself, she realized how critical the work UNFPA does is. She believes wholeheartedly that every woman deserves to have her baby safely and as a mother, she finds it appalling that a woman dies every minute in childbirth. It’s not a shocking idea—but with so little money invested in maternal health around the world, it’s worth reminding people that these basic rights are what she’s fighting for.

Her day on Capitol Hill was packed and she didn’t miss a beat. She started the morning meeting and thanking Women’s Policy Advisors for the House, staff of the House Appropriations Committee and State Foreign Opps Sub Committees and members of the Foreign Affairs Committee. She raised questions about the current status of U.S. funding and spoke about her role as a UNFPA Goodwill Ambassador to raise awareness about the health issues facing women and mothers worldwide and urge the U.S. to rejoin the global community and support UNFPA’s work to prevent maternal death.

She reminded us that “I and most American and British women take for granted that we will be able to deliver our babies in a clean environment with trained help and that if something goes wrong we’ll receive medical treatment.” And she spoke first hand about the harsh realities that women face that she saw when traveling to Zambia and the Philippines with UNFPA.

From there she met with members of the Women’s Caucus and delegates who attended the Women Deliver conference for safe motherhood in London last October. Following Women Deliver the Caucus committed to maternal health as a main focus in 08. She talked about the “multiple dividends of investing in women” and discussed UNFPA’s efforts to provide family planning, advocate for health reforms and upgrade health facilities, train midwives and doctors, help communities, and promote women’s rights. Her eloquence and knowledge made my job so much easier—I’d invite her back any day!

Ms. Halliwell was creative and invested in finding solutions to getting more support for UNFPA in Washington. She didn’t just want to talk about it, she wanted to know what else she could do and who else she should have tea with to get them to support UNFPA’s mission.

She drew attention to our goal to obtain A U.S. contribution of $60 million for UNFPA in Fiscal Year 2009 to help save the lives of women across the world.

After a day on the hill with Ms. Halliwell, I was truly impressed. If she was this passionate about UNFPA, I could only imagine her energy while singing, dancing and performing with the Spice Girls. I quickly joined a number of colleagues on the Hill and purchased my ticket to see her perform at the Verizon Center that night.

Ms. Halliwell invited us backstage to meet the rest of the Spice Girls before the concert— she’d transformed from her vintage cream suit to one of many spectacular costumes changes that were to follow that evening. And, by this time I’d learned who they were- Sporty, Baby, Posh, Scary and of course Ginger.

Imagine, 15 people – almost all involved in politics in some capacity (minus a couple of true die-hard fans who were children of some politicos) – turned completely star struck the minute these five women walked into the room to meet us.

I can admit that I felt pretty “cool” when she walked into the room and said “Hi Joanne!”

Then we were ushered onto the floor of the concert to watch the Spice Girls do their stuff. The show itself was extremely impressive, and they won me over as a fan. Of course, just my luck, this was their reunion tour, and they only have four more concerts. Ah well, if I continue to be behind the curve of the rest of the music-appreciating world, then so be it.

While the Spice Girls tour is soon coming to an end, I’m thankful and that Ms. Halliwell contributions to UNFPA are far from over. When she sings, crowds are silenced. And when she speaks, crowds can’t help but listen. Even in Congress.

She made it clear that “girl power” is our future—and she suggests that girl power began in the U.S! I’d agree with that, especially when you consider that the U.S. was instrumental in forming UNFPA back in 1969.

Let’s make sure thought that as leaders in girl power—we invest in woman always. I’m hopefully that with women like Ms. Halliwell speaking out in support of UNFPA that together we can ensure that no woman dies giving life.

Geri Halliwell, aka Ginger Spice, visits congress yesterday as a goodwill ambassador for the UNFPA—the United Nations Population Fund.

Read full article at US News.

No comments: