On the way home from TED Women I began to reflect on the wonderful stories I had heard, the motivation those around me had to give back more, and the camaraderie women found sharing an experience together. The meeting formula is quite magical and in many ways a live-theatre interpretation of short stories. They were grouped by chapters in Socratic themes demonstrating his quote “to move the world, first move yourself.”
The autobiographies told were of people who were trying to decrease infant mortality, design a mobile space suit for Mars, create a unique voice for those who cannot speak or an affordable, prosthetic knee for those in poor areas that can no longer run. Their missions were around bringing about greater tolerance for those who are different to bringing greater attention to the different signs of disease in men vs. women.
We learned of “Ubuntu” a South African term meaning “I am; because of you” on the day Nelson Mandela died. We learned by one woman losing a child she saved thousands of others, and that mothers and not hospitals are best suited to care for premies in third-world countries. It was brought to our consciousness that a more collective society acknowledges our well-being is tied to others.
We heard the question “What would I do if I wasn’t afraid?” For swimmer Diana Nyad it meant attempting a fifth swim from Cuba to Key West at 64, for Sheryl Sandberg it meant writing “Lean In” and for Esta Soler it meant a 30 year battle starting with Polariod photos making the invisible visible in her fight to end violence against women. It means telling the tough story that you are not proud of as well as those you want to brag about. It means admitting their is a man box and that both men and women need to contribute to bring about change for women.
And if that wasn’t enough, I took away that talent is universal but opportunity is not. For many we have to help create opportunity. Whether you are 13 or 75, the age range of the presenters, you can have an impact. Catalina Escobar told me, “if you save one life it is worth it.” Easy to say for someone who has reduced the infant mortality rate in her local hospital 79%, and also started a day program to support pregnant, teenage girls to change the face of poverty in her town. However, what she instilled in me is don’t wait to tackle something large, start with something you think is small.
We were motivated by the spoken word, song and drums (the first Nairobi women’s drumming group). As innovators “wisdom may begin with wonder” said Socrates but what I saw is love as a driver. Love for what these speakers were trying to achieve, love for the people they were driven to help, love for the sport they were trying to conquer, love for the wilderness they were trying to protect, love for the cause they were rallying behind and love for the way they were. So I realized what TED is really about is “love stories.”