I’m still in awe of my time in Johannesburg with Johnson & Johnson. The world’s largest healthcare company brought together some of the most inspiring, kind, hard-working women from all around the world…and I never want to forget the feeling I felt when it was time to go. I felt alive, intelligent, confident, and energized. We were fierce females from Kenya, France, Great Britain, India, Nigeria, Liberia, South Africa and the USA ready to create change.
I’ve had South Africa way up there on my bucket list for as long as I can remember. It was a week chock full of inspiring discussions, diversity, medical breakthroughs, women empowerment, drum circles, insanely cool wildlife and Beyoncé alongside her counterpart Jay Z. Tell me how that can get ANY better?! Short answer: it can’t.
I want to highlight some crazy cool females I encountered in Johannesburg because they deserve it… because hopefully it’ll inspire you, the reader…and in the words of Danai Gurira,
Women should know about women. We should know that we are our own heroes.
Cradle of Humankind
Declared an UNESCO World Heritage site in 1999, this museum and excavation site is known as the place where humankind originated. It’s RIGHT.HERE. that the first hominid, Australopithecus, was found in 1924. Think about that for a second. The very first humans started HERE. Experiencing such a place was truly amazing, educational, and filled with historical facts and fossils tracing (wo)mankind back 7 million years. I don’t there’s a single better classroom is the entire world.
Lindsay Hunter is an Archaeologist and Program Manager for the National Geographic “Umsuka” Public Palaeoanthropology Project. She was also part of the Rising Star Exhibition at the Cradle of Humankind excavation site and a damn good public speaker. Her speech had me hanging on her every word…
Women are the drivers of communities. Very often we’ve been asked to take a backseat and do that work from behind. It’s women who rock the cradle. We need your support in the various programs around the world and in your communities that help to bring diverse voices to the human story. To rewrite things so that it is not always heard only in one person’s voice, someone coming from the global north, that it is all of our story with all of our different backgrounds, our struggles with wealth, with mental health, with physical health with things that we’ve been told are disabilities. All of these are part of the human story and you are the ones sharing it with the world. Listen with a kind heart and an open mind.
African Pride Hotel
One afternoon we had the opportunity to have “lunch” with Danai Gurira, a total female boss babe who has starred in The Walking Dead, Black Panther, Avengers and so on. I say “lunch” with quotations because nobody really ate. It was a room full of jaw-dropped women gazing at Danai as some powerful words flowed so eloquently out of her mouth. She touched on the art of storytelling, authenticity, her life’s work but most importantly, women empowerment.
Danai Gurira: Actress, Activist, Female Badass
There is so much courage that comes from women when they are willing to speak out about things that need to be addressed. I believe in looking to women for the answers because they have taken the time to know their communities, and they have the courage to speak out once handed the mic.
AMEN girl, amen. You can find me binge watching Danai’s movies all weekend long…
Johnson & Johnson Partners
Johnson & Johnson has placed so much importance on initiatives that have helped women progress since its founding. The future of global health is female, they say 🙂 And I like that. Glenda Gray, CEO and President of the South African Medical Research Council and chair of the Imbokodo study, spoke on the company’s biggest undertaking yet: making the world free of HIV with a global vaccine. The study will be ongoing for another two years, and we’re all hopeful this will create AIDS free generations for years to come! Johnson & Johnson is constantly creating and innovating and seeking answers on how best to empower women around the globe, making sure they have access to health wellness. They achieve this with the help of their partners…
MomConnect – This technology solution aims to register every pregnant woman in the country through her phone so she can receive up to 3 years of weekly messaging timed to her stage in pregnancy and age of child. With the resources and expertise at Johnson & Johnson, moms can now have a 2-way conversation with access to a help desk as well!
This woman made me who I am today. (speaking about Babalwa Mbono, another Mentor Mother.) I LOVE seeing and hearing women supporting other women.
1 out of 3 moms have HIV in South Africa. MomConnect uses Whatsapp and is done in 11 official South African languages. More than 2 million mothers have been registered in 4 years!
Mothers2mothers and MomConnect work in conjunction with each other. It’s where tech solutions meets deep, personal face-to-face engagements with moms in communities. The program recruits, trains and employs HIV+ mothers to serve as mentors. An HIV+ mother has a 45% chance of transmitting the virus to her baby but with the right medication and support, that chance can be eliminated. The program is currently in 8 African countries with 2.3 million new clients and almost 3,000 mentor mothers being lifted out of poverty by being employed in the program!
Evelyn from Dark City
I found out I was HIV+, I was so scared and shocked so I met some Mentor Mothers. They helped me a lot, and taught me how to use the treatment. After birth, my baby tested HIV- and now she is 9 months old.
This initiative seeks to improve access to private healthcare for people in low income areas. Unjani professional nurses own and operate their own healthcare business providing them with a health center, ongoing training and education. Unjani Clinics are in 6 out of the 9 South African provinces and totaling 55 throughout. There are 58 empowered nurses with 30,000 patient engagements per month! This statistic only proves that people can and will prioritize their spending for quality affordable healthcare.
Having my own center is my dream, and I’m working with Unjani Clinic because it’s a family healthcare model.
Global Citizen Concert
The week ended with a bang at the Global Citizen Concert where Beyoncé and Jay Z nailed some major entertainment. Her message is always on point and intentional. I am so Crazy in Love with this woman and basically used my Video Phone all night so I could rewatch and rewatch that concert forever. (And because of that – I have ZERO photos of Queen B, only her in action). And If I Were A Boy…actually, ya know what? Thankfully I’m not because Who Run the World?
We have to teach our boys the rules of equality and respect, so that as they grow up gender equality becomes a natural way of life. And we have to teach our girls that they can reach as high as humanly possible.