A reporter once asked A.J. Muste, a Dutch born American clergyman and
pacifist who protested against the Vietnam War, “Do you really think you are going to change the policies of this country by standing out here alone at night in front of the White House with a candle?” Muste replied softly,
“Oh I don’t do this to change the country.
I do this so the country won’t change me.”
In a world so complex, so overwhelmed with systemic poverty and injustice, it can be flummoxing and down-right exhausting deciding where your precious effort and resources should go, and even more so, understanding whether you are having any real impact.
2019 was my first year formally involved with Project Didi as President of the Board, and this role has been my own lit candle: the time I give and the work I do is my act of service to what I think is truly important. It has kept me tethered to the legacy I want to create in my life. I imagine it is the same for our supporters and the Project Didi community broadly.
There are many important causes in the world, and we as individuals cannot address every single one. What is important is that something about Project Didi’s mission resonated with you as it does with us. And you made the conscious decision to allocate your time or energy or resources to this community.
You, like us, understand how precious women and girls are to this planet. How critical education is to the lives of women, their families and their communities. You understand how critical it is to address the urgent crisis of trafficking and modern slavery. How central child rights are to a flourishing world. How everybody loses when gender inequality goes unchallenged.
Sometimes, the most revolutionary thing we can do is to make sure that through our everyday actions we practice our core values, even in the face of what may seem like intractable challenges to what we want for humanity and our environment. Every member of the Project Didi community has done this: when you have donated money to help our long-standing partner, Asha Nepal run their progressive family-based care, when you have participated in a trip to Nepal to learn and share experiences with the local community, when you have come to a movie screening or fundraising event, when you have chatted with friends over lunch about the Modern Slavery Act and how important it is to understand supply chains through the lens of human rights.
Each act of support for Project Didi’s work, large or small, is your way of lighting a candle for the world you want, in spite of very real challenges.
We know that gender inequality is a major cause and effect of hunger and poverty: it is estimated that “60 percent of chronically hungry people are women and girls”. Research indicates that when women have control of more income “child nutrition, health and education improve”. We know that a woman's education is “a key factor in determining a child's survival” and that “educated women are more likely to have greater decision-making power within their households”. We know that that every additional year of primary school “increases girls' eventual wages by 10-20 percent” and encourages them to “marry later and have fewer children”, leaving them less vulnerable to violence (UN Women, 2020).
For all these reasons and more, we know that your involvement has helped to transform the futures of women and girls in Nepal. We hope you continue to be a critical part of this growing community as we have a lot more in store for you.
This has been a year of evolution for Didi, a year of transformation as the seedlings that Sarah, Leonie and Fiona planted and grown into something with bold ambitions but a thoughtful, gentle regard for how we step through the world we inhabit and the work we do in it. We have put our stake in the ground, and we have had some very honest conversations about what our role, practically, sustainably and ethically speaking, should really be. We cannot wait to share more of this with you in 2020.
Again, thank you, and best wishes for a new decade led by your values, our shared values for a world enriched by women and girls who are free to pursue meaningful futures on their own terms.