Last week, I had the change to travel to Washington, DC for part of the ONE Summit. ONE is an advocacy organization founded by Bono, dedicated to addressing poverty in Africa. I attended as a ONE Moms ambassador, which seeks to rally moms around these causes. I’ve long been a fan of the ONE campaign so I was thrilled to become a part of the ONE Moms team. (And it didn’t hurt that I was joining some of my favorite ladies.) Our first day there, we spent learning about the initiatives that ONE is working on. Specifically, we learned about the Electrify Africa bill, which aims to provide electricity to impoverished areas of Africa, and GAVI, which aims to provide life-saving vaccines to children. We also got training on lobbying our congressional representatives, which is how we spent our second day. This part was fascinating to me, as I’ve always been keenly interested in politics. We each went over the facts that we wanted to present to our representatves, but also tried to identify how to communicate why we were personally invested. One of ONE’s key slogans is “Where you are born shouldn’t dictate whether you live or die.” This really resonates for me, especially after our experience of waiting to bring Kembe home from Haiti, and having a child who was legally ours and yet living in a country where children have such limited access to education and healthcare. This was the message that we wanted to impart . . . that we want the US to continue to be a global leader in eradicating poverty-related illnesses and death. The following morning we woke up to snow (a little exciting for this California girl) and made our way over the the Capital. I had meetings with the offices of Barbara Boxer, Diane Feinstein, Karen Bass, and Nancy Pelosi. Here is our team of ONE delegates from California: It was such an eye-opening and empowering experience to realize that as citizens, we can make appointments with our representatives and speak our minds. And they listen! I was so impressed with everyone we met with. We were frequently told how refreshing it was to have people coming in with global justice requests, as usually lobbying is geared around corporate interests. It also made me a little embarrassed that, as someone interested in politics, it was the first time I had actually reached out to one of my representatives. A bit of a light-bulb moment . . . this is how it’s supposed to work. The day after I returned home, I got the following email from one of our fearless leaders at ONE:
Very good news to report from the House of Representatives today. This morning, the House Foreign Affairs Committee favorably reported out the Electrify Africa bill. The mark up lasted just under an hour, and the bill was voice voted, with only one member (as far as we could tell) voting no. A true bipartisan accomplishment. Not only that, but ONE’s work was recognized by Chairman Royce and Congressman Meeks. In fact, Chairman Royce asked ONE members in attendance (I think there were at least 10 in shirts) to stand up to be acknowledged for our work on the bill. I’ve been in DC for 20 years – never seen that before. The committee even tweeted out a photo thanking ONE for our strong support.
I have to say that this was a whole team effort. Virtually everyone here was involved in some way on this. Members and staff alike today mentioned how critical Tuesday’s lobby day was on the Hill – they said it gave a needed boost to the legislation, and were incredibly thankful for and impressed by ONE members and staff. The meetings, tweets, emails, calls, letters, LTEs – it all made a very real difference.
It’s incredible to think that our advocacy could have been a small ripple that moved the hands of government for people in Africa. If you are interested in getting involved in what ONE is doing and helping to campaign your own representatives to consider social justice issues, you can sign up here.