March Exchange Recap


March is celebrated every year as Women’s History Month and this past March was also the month of Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In.  So perhaps quite appropriately, so too became the theme of our March Exchange.  For the uninitiated, NY+Acumen hosts monthly exchanges as an opportunity for like-minded individuals to gather and discuss important social issues over dinner in good company, providing a forum for discussion that may otherwise be unavailable in our day to day lives.

We are often reminded at NY+Acumen that dignity is more important to the human spirit than wealth. We saw this to be true in learning the inspiring story of Kakenya, a Kenyan woman who challenged her Maasai community’s social norms by being the first woman in her family to attend college. We understood the many complexities of how poverty presents itself to those who face it day in and day out when Jacqueline Novogratz recounted her experience with Jane during a visit to Kenya. We were also enlightened by IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde in the ways that we, as a global community, can go about alleviating some of the many issues women around the world face every day.

At our very core, we all want the same things in life: we want to feel connected and we want to feel relevant.  We want to feel like an active participant in the happenings and goings on of activities and events unraveling before us.  Whether that is in our work, in our personal relationships, or in our communities, I think we have all had an idea of what that feels like at some point in our lives. A-Z Textile Mills is one of the many Acumen investments that have moved the gender equality conversation forward.  It is not only one of the primary producers of life-saving anti-malarial bednets in Africa but also one of the largest employers, providing jobs for over 7,000 people, primarily women.  This is just one of the many ways Acumen goes about empowering people living in instances of incredible poverty.

I don’t think we are all that different from one another, and so the work we do to further the conversation of addressing gender equality and poverty must come from a place of dignity. It must come from a place where we believe every individual should have access to the same opportunities we often take for granted, so that they can achieve and build for themselves the life they find worthwhile. These values were what drove me to the work that Acumen does and over time, they have found their way into everything I do.

This work is hard and the solutions are convoluted.  As one attendee expressed during the exchange, “poverty and inequality are two different barriers to freedom and dignity, and solving one without the other is not enough.”  But the answers will come, I am sure of it, and it begins with exercising our moral imaginations to see our world beyond the expeditious cynicism that often shrouds it.

On behalf of NY+Acumen I invite you to join us at future exchanges and events. We want to engage you, the global community, and our moral imaginations in conversations about topics like gender (in)equality, energy poverty, global health and much more. Our next exchange is scheduled for May 29th, and we expect to build upon the theme of energy poverty explored during a recent screening and panel discussion of the Tribeca and Berlin Film Festival accepted documentary Powerless. Look forward to seeing you soon!

Posted by Nigel Kwok

This views expressed in this blog are of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of Acumen.