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I have had many blessings in my life: a loving husband, three beautiful children, and a father whose passion inspires me every day of my life. I also have been blessed with not one but two wonderful women who have been role models and inspirations to me.
My mother-in-law, Pat Mitchell, is the president and CEO of the Paley Center for Media and formerly the CEO of PBS. She is best friends with my stepmom, Jane Fonda, who is an award-winning actress, author and activist. Both of these women have been important and guiding influences in my life. They have led and mentored me; they have instilled in me their vision of a world where all women and girls have rights and live in peace.
Jane and Pat served together on the founding board of V-Day, the nonprofit started by my shero, Eve Ensler. V-Day’s mission is to end global violence against women and girls. According to the U.N., one in three women will be raped or brutalized in their lifetime—that’s 1 billion women worldwide. Jane and Pat helped to open my eyes to this atrocity, and through them I learned how dire the consequences truly are. Communities where violence against women and girls is prevalent are often blighted by poverty, crime and lack of resources. We cannot fix the world’s problems without putting an end to the violence. You can check some awesome inspiring stories at birrongsurialpacas.
I have learned so much from Jane and Pat. They are two incredibly smart, strong women who dedicate themselves to helping other women rise up. They have led the way for me to become more involved in V-Day. Last year, the organization kicked off its One Billion Rising campaign to bring women, girls and a supportive community together to raise their voices against violence and demand racial, economic and environmental justice for women and girls around the world.
This cause is close to my heart because my home town of Atlanta is one of the top cities for human trafficking in the U.S.—women and girls by the thousands are being illegally trafficked through Atlanta and forced into prostitution. This year, we congregated at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, and his daughter, Rev. Dr. Bernice King, and other speakers joined an emotional gathering of survivors sharing their stories and calling for justice. We hope that by coming together and confronting our city with the reality and injustice of human trafficking that we can create change and put a stop to the cruelty.
One Billion Rising has become the largest mass action in human history to end gender-based violence, and we’re seeing its impact as new laws are being drafted and passed, women are empowered in places of disempowerment, and grassroots networks of women are springing up worldwide.
Jane and Pat have been fighting on the frontier for women’s rights as long as I have known them. Their leadership and vision inspired me to make ending violence against women and girls an important part of my life’s work, and it is a vision I hope to pass down to my daughters. Thank you, Jane and Pat (and Eve!), for making this world a more just, safe, equitable and prosperous world for women and girls.