Vital Voices: A book review by Bob Morris

Vital Voices: The Power of Women Leading Change Around the World
Alyse Nelson
Jossey-Bass (2012)

How and why “women’s rights are human rights” and “women’s progress is global progress” for everyone

Alyze Nelson wrote the Introduction and then devotes a separate chapter to each of five “common threads” from which the “fabric” of great leadership within the Vital Voices Global Partnership has been “woven” for almost two decades. They are:

o  A driving force or sense of mission
o  Strong roots in the community
o  An ability to connect across lines that divide
o  Bold ideas and bold action
o  A resolve to pay it forward

According to the Foreword provided by Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton  and its Founder, the Vital Voices global movement can be traced back to the United Nations’ Beijing women’s conference in 1995 when delegates from 189 nations met to discuss various issues.  Since then, hundreds of thousands of women have helped to build an increasingly stronger, more influential global organization that continues to support as well as stand both with and behind women around the world. During the past seventeen years, much of great value has been learned. As Nelson explains, “Our goal, with this book, is to share those lessons as widely as we can in the hopes that other women — and all individuals — who aspire to make a difference can draw inspiration, guidance, and hope from these voices, their stories, and their successes.”

Each of the five chapters is introduced by a “vital voice” among the extraordinary women who, in the words of the Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton (VVGP founder), “are on the front lines across the world who make each of us dare a little more, risk a little more, do a little more.” Specifically, these are the leaders who introduce the first five chapters:

One:  “A driving force or sense of mission ,” The Honorable Michelle Bachelet (Under-Secretary General and Executive Director, UN Women)
Two:  “Strong roots in the community,” Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iwseala (Coordinating Minister of the Economy and Minister of Finance, Nigeria)
Three:  “An ability to connect across lines that divide,” Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (Honorary Co-Chair, Vital Voices)
Four:  “Bold ideas and bold action,” Diane Von Furstenberg (Designer, and Vital Voices Board Member)
Five: “A resolve to pay it forward ,” Melanne Verveer (Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, U.S. Department of State, and Vital Voices Co-Founder and Chair Emeritus)
The Conclusion, “Leadership Is a Journey, Not a Destination,” is introduced  by Sally Field (Actress, Activist, and Vital Forces Board Member). Then Susan Anne Davis and Bobbie Greene McCarthy (Chair and Vice-Chair, Board of Directors, Vital voices) provide an Afterword.

I was tempted by but resisted the temptation to provide a number of brief excerpts from various contributors. Suffice to say that Alyze Nelson has assembled and then brilliantly edited a wealth of material from 40 global leaders who demonstrate “the power of women leading change around the world,” to be sure, but their insights and experiences also help us to understand that how and why “women’s rights are human rights” and “women’s progress is global progress” for everyone.



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