Article originally published on The Shriver Report
Growing up in Caribou, Maine, a small rural town and farming community that is the northernmost city in the continental United States, women were told that we had two choices – who we were going to marry and how many children we were going to have. My mother, who had twelve siblings and never left Caribou, always felt that her future had been capped. And she made it her life’s mission to make sure the same didn’t happen to me.
She instilled in me very early on that learning domestic skills and taking on a “traditional” role would never get me out of Caribou. So rather than teaching me how to cook or clean, she taught me how to do things like balance a checkbook and encouraged me to learn welding and fly tying.
As I grew older, my mother’s words continued to resonate. I became passionate about changing the mindset around the worth of women and girls in our community. I wanted to help the other girls in Caribou create the life that they wanted, not the one that they were “supposed” to have. I began to realize that as women, we must stick together. So once I was able to drive, I would take each girl I knew to Planned Parenthood so that they could get birth control, just like my mother did for me. Change starts through choice.
The realization that women need to do more for other women has driven my life’s path. It is the reason that I first became a pharmaceutical representative after college for G. D. Searle, the company that launched the first birth control pill in the US–a game changer for women. And it is the reason I decided to leave the corporate world to start WomanCare Global, where we fight every day to protect the health and reproductive rights of women, particularly in the developing world. We believe that empowering women to choose when and if they will have children will create vast improvements in their health, well-being and economic standing, in turn creating more a prosperous and sustainable society.
After all, women are our leaders, providers, mothers, wives, daughters, sisters and friends. And when they are healthy and able the live the lives they want, they build strong families and economically-viable communities.
However, millions of women worldwide still lack access to the quality reproductive healthcare products they need and want. Products like contraceptives and devices that protect their reproductive safety. These women deserve access to products that help them plan their families, whether short or long term. At WomanCare Global, this is what our work is all about: providing all women, regardless of geographic location or socioeconomic status, with the reproductive choices they desperately want and need.
Through all of my experiences in life, I have learned that one voice makes a difference, but when we come together as women, we become an unstoppable force. There is tremendous value in what we can do together to improve women’s lives one-by-one, and in turn, make a world of positive difference.
I hope you will join me in celebrating International Women’s Day on March 8 by supporting organizations like A Woman’s Nation™ that are focused on creating platforms to inspire, empower and lend support to women around the world. Organizations like Women Deliver that carry the baton in the ongoing fight for equality, and organizations like WomanCare Global, that fight to remove economic and geographic barriers to ensure that all women have a choice.