Women are the focus in March with Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day celebrated March 8. If there was no gender gap; if there was pay equity (women make 79.6 cents on every dollar men make), reproductive freedom, no violence against women; if women were respected and equally included at the gatherings of leadership, then there would be no need for a special month or day for women. Since this is definitely not the case, than gentlemen, don’t ask me why there is no International Men’s Day.
The 2017 International Women’s Day hashtag is #BeBoldForChange. Ironically, even with the lack of equality, women have been bold for change for hundreds of years. Just think about what women like Marie Curie, Mother Teresa, Indira Gandhi, Grace Hopper, Amelia Earhart, Jane Goodall, Oprah Winfrey, Malala Yousafzai did to change the world. And that’s only a few.
I’d like to make the case for thousands of bold women who make change today, by singling out one woman. She is a great example of why we need to push with all our might to gain equality for women. The woman I am celebrating is MacDella Cooper, a courageous woman who was a child refugee. Today she is a serious candidate for the Presidency of the African nation of Liberia. MacDella is the founder of the MacDella Cooper Foundation, which has created orphanages and schools for children in her native home of Liberia. I am fortunate to know MacDella. What I only recently learned was that she herself lived through Liberia’s civil conflicts and wars in the 90’s. She was a refugee along with her brothers, suffering much like we see happening to children and families in Syria. MacDella is a great example of how women change the world. Her story is one that reveals why refugees need to be welcome in our country.
After running from violence at the age of 13, MacDella finally gained entry to the U.S. where she attended high school in Newark. After graduating third in her class, she won a full scholarship to the College of New Jersey. After graduation, her career took her to the lucrative modeling and fashion industry. However, the transition from abandoned war orphan to jet-setter, didn’t feel right to her. She believed her calling was to help the children of Liberia. She left the fashion industry and set up the MacDella Cooper Foundation with the mission of educating, training and motivating Africa’s most vulnerable children. Her non-profit has renovated and built schools and living quarters for orphans as well as providing food, clothing, healthcare, security and college scholarships. She also supports literacy, job training programs and family planning for women and girls. Her work on behalf of the people of Liberia has lead her to commit to create even more positive change to her native country by running for President. MacDella Cooper is distinctly qualified to lead. Her vision and convictions answer the call of a new generation of Liberian citizens on a platform of free education; universal healthcare; electricity in every home; decentralization; and the creation of infrastructure.
MacDella Cooper, and many other women, are living #BeBoldForChange. What women do you know who are living their lives boldly with purpose? Acknowledge these women – encourage them, support them and make them more visible. They are leading the charge for all people throughout the world to live happier lives. That’s what women do. We care. We take action. We are bold for change.
—Leslie Grossman, Vistage Chair; Vice Chair, Global Advisory Board,Impact Leadership 21; author, LINK OUT (Wiley)