It was my final semester at NYU when I finally gained some donor-inspiration. My
roommate Sruti and I were taking a class with Professor Doug Band, most famous
for being Chief Advisor to former President Bill Clinton, but more famous within our
classroom for being the creator of the Clinton Global Initiative. I’ll have to write an
entirely other post dedicated to the accolades our class could award on Prof. Band.
It’s just too bad that it took until my very last semester in college to find the first
professor who both empowered me to want to change the world and truly cared
about the future of his students.
Part of what made Band so influential was that he would bring in guest speakers on
a regular basis. These weren’t your run-of-mill, friend-of-the-professor speakers.
These guests would be the world’s change-makers most of us can only imagine
speaking to. One very lucky day, our class was privileged to meet and speak with the
brilliant Zainab Salbi, co-founder of Women for Women International.
Just a bit about Salbi… Born in Iraq, Salbi is the daughter of former personal pilot to
Saddam Hussein, and moved to the U.S. when she was nineteen years old. Inspired
by the plight of the women of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Salbi and her husband
created Women for Women International, a nonprofit organization providing
educational support to female survivors of war across the glove.
When Salbi came in to our classroom to tell us about her work at Women for
Women, it wasn’t just her compelling case for investing in women that had me
wanting to donate, but it was Zainab herself. Salbi is a striking and quietly powerful
woman. Between speaking about the stories of the women she has worked with, and
about the outstanding accomplishments she has achieved through her humanitarian
work, Salbi managed to maintain a level of humility that I rarely find in powerful
people. And I won’t pretend that it wasn’t important that Salbi is a woman. There
was nothing patronizing about her empathy for these women she helps- Salbi so
beautifully represented herself as the example that all women should work towards.
Her presence was somehow both calm and empowering, and it left our entire
classroom in a state of vigor.
That very night, my roommate Sruti and I went home and looked up online how
much it would cost us to sponsor a woman in Women for Women. The way the
organization works is that it puts these women affected by war into year-long
classes that teach them about their legal rights and financial opportunities. Realizing
that alone, neither Sruti or I could afford to sponsor a woman for an entire year, we
decided to split the cost. Each month, Sruti and I give money to sponsor a woman in
Afghanistan who is just about the same age as us at 22, and is entirely alone without
her parents or husband.
It isn’t just Women for Women that I believe in, but it’s Salbi herself. When I invest
in Women for Women, I am investing in Salbi to continue her work to make the
world a better place.
So there you go. That’s where I give my money.
More reading and organizations in case you’re interested: