Sunday, September 27, 2009

22. Women For Women International

Dear Followers,

S.B. Bingo posted a welcome comment that asked what it meant that Coco Chanel had so many of the 17 traits, while other Self-Empowered Women often had fewer. In fact, part of the reason was simply that I know (indeed we all do) more about Chanel's life because so very much about her is now public knowledge.

If you look at high achievers, it often turns out that the more you know about them, the more traits pop up. From Kathy Griffin (whose new book OFFICIAL BOOK CLUB SELECTION is on this week's NYT's non-fiction bestseller list) to Barbra Streisand (whose 64th album in being released this week), there are many women whose traits number in the teens. But I still maintain that Chanel - legend that she is - remaians prototypical.

Today I'd like to write about an amazing woman, Zainab Salbi, who is an Iraqi-American writer and activist. Salbi grew up in Baghdid and when she was eleven years old her father was named Saddam Hussein's personal pilot. Iraq was becoming more dangerous, her family was constantly being "monitored," and their phones were tapped. Politically motivated assinations were becoming commonplace.

In 1990, Salbi's mother arranged for her 19 year old daughter to marry a Palestinian-American because it was the only way Zainab could safely leave Iraq and travel to the United States. The newlyweds were worried about the plight of women in the "rape and concentration camps" in he former Yugoslavia, and they established an organization that helped women survivors of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Since 1993, Women For Women International has helped 120,000 women war survivors around the world and distributed more than $33 million in aid and microcredit loans. According to Salbi, the most dangerous place in the world to be a woman today is the Congo, and her organization is working to protect women from the sexual violence that is so prevalent both there and in the Sudan.

Salbi's two books ("Between Two Worlds: Escaping Tyranny, Growing Up in the Shadow of Saddam" and " The Other Side of War: Women's Stories of Survival and Hope") are truly inspiring, as is she.

Looking forward to your comments...

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