Several years ago, a girl and her younger sister were abducted by a member of Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army. The two young girls were forced to walk miles across the rugged landscape of Southern Sudan with their captor to become what is known as “slave wives” for the army. Exhausted and weak from carrying her younger sister on the long journey, the young girl asked their captor if they could rest and if he could help her carry her younger sister. The man said if she was too tired to carry her sister she would have to kill her. He handed the girl a machete and demanded she lighten the load. She couldn’t believe her ears. She explained to the man that killing her sister would be like killing herself. There was no way she could do such a thing. The man told her to kill her sister or he would kill them both. In the end, she was forced to kill her own sister.
For the last 30 years, Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe has been working tirelessly to give refuge to and rehabilitate girls formerly held captive by the Resistance Army. With an iron will and a sewing machine, she has enrolled more than 2,000 girls who had been previously abducted by the LRA or abandoned by their families. Thanks to Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe, that girl is now a contributing member of society. She is still haunted by that day and many others from her captivity, but she has been educated and has developed sewing skills to allow for independence. That girl is now teaching and helping others and has a voice against the resistance.
This was just one story shared at Tina Brown’s Women in the World San Francisco event on February 11.
Sarah Kahn, Director and Co-Founder of Inspire was also there. In an interview with by Zainab Salbi (Founder, Women for Women International and NIDA’A Productions), Kahn described her fight against gender discrimination and extremism within her Muslim faith. She talked about the challenges, particularly with getting funding for work many prefer not to get involved with.
Doniece Sandoval, Founder and Executive Director of Lava Mae, accepted Toyota’s “Mothers of Invention” award for her innovative work repurposing city buses to provide mobile showers to the homeless. Doniece discovered access to sanitation and showers are in serious short supply for the homeless and she single-handedly orchestrated private and nonprofit organizations to make the service a reality.
Perhaps the most famous guest of the night was Amy Pascal, Co-Chair, Sony Pictures Entertainment and Chair, Sony Pictures Entertainment Motion Picture Group. Tina Brown asked Amy pointedly about the recent hacking at Sony and her decision to step down from her position. When asked what she had learned from the experience, her answer was that it’s better to be honest with people to their faces (as many news agencies have reported, there were several celebrities her hacked emails had offended, including Angelina Jolie). Interestingly, while Amy is one of few women to make it to the top of a major film studio, she apparently does not see herself as a role model and does not feel a responsibility to look out for the interests of other women in the industry. When asked point blank why she paid actresses like Amy Adams and others less than male actors, she replied, “I’m running a business. I’m not going to call up people and offer them more money. They shouldn’t accept less money.” Yes, but if actresses aren’t aware of the pay range for a role (it’s not like there’s salary survey data for those jobs), how would they know what to ask for? And others in the industry feel personal ownership for making positive changes for women (reference Patricia Arquette’s Academy Award acceptance speech) - being a successful business person and being fair doesn’t have to be synonymous. Regardless, I suspect actresses are going to be asking for a whole lot more going forward - particularly those referenced in Amy Pascal’s emails. Get ready to open your wallet film studios...