The Oak Tree and the Reeds. Thriving
in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world.

By
Antonella Notari Vischer, Executive Director, The Womanity Foundation

At times, our world feels like it is shaken by
furious, uncontrollable storms: crises strike suddenly and throw many to the
ground; familiar environments change unpredictably and present us with
unexpected risks and obstacles; situations quickly escape control and become
confusing. Yes, at times, our world seems frightening and overpowering. In the
face of such turbulences, old wisdom still stands true: while the lonely oak
tree in its strongly rooted ways will break, the field of subtle reeds, which
dance with the storm will survive and thrive.

Similarly, when we invest in social development
nowadays, we must remain nimble and open-minded, so as to be able to encourage
and scale up innovative solutions and foster collaborations among a wide range
of partners from the public, private, social and academic sectors. This is the
approach we pursue at the Womanity Foundation and it has helped us to grow our
expertise and consequently our impact. We build from groundbreaking,
experimental ideas, such as setting up the first commercial women’s radio in
the Middle East in Palestine, to broader programmes, such as producing a radio
fiction series on women’s role in society, which was aired and debated throughout
the Middle East and North Africa in 2014. Or, as we are doing with the Womanity
Award to End Violence Against Women, we support the cooperation between
organisations that will take a successful idea into a new context and replicate
it to increase its impact. The goal is to contribute to women’s empowerment in
creative and effective ways that can be scaled, by collaborating with others.

Faced with the many challenges provoked by a largely
profit-driven, non-inclusive economy, a polluted environment and over-exploited
natural resources, massive migrations, epidemics, crippling corruption, poverty,
violence and injustice, communities around the world are looking to build their
resilience and their capacity to adapt and respond. To do so, they need chances
and means to acquire relevant knowledge and share information, as well as the skills
and tools that enable them to best use their resources. Conveniently, fast-developing
and increasingly accessible technologies for communication and knowledge
management are offering unprecedented opportunities for creative, transcending partnerships,
and for exchanges that can weave ties of solidarity across geographical,
cultural and social boundaries. Today, like never before we have the means to
expand altruism and generosity beyond simple acts of charity to system-changing
cooperation.

The more diverse and inclusive such collaborations
are, the more they will creatively generate solutions that adapt to fast-paced
changes and new challenges. At the Womanity Foundation, we believe that girls
and women must imperatively be given the possibility and means to realize their
full potential and contribute to such community-strengthening processes. If
they are left behind, they not only miss out themselves but also burden their
societies. If they are valued and included they can flourish and enrich their
environment. This is why we strive to identify and support innovative and
creative ways to educate girls in contexts where their education has been
obstructed; to encourage women’s active and productive participation in
society; to create platforms where they can publicly voice their opinions and aspirations;
and to strengthen actions that will prevent violence against women and improve
their safety.

The strongest tree braving the harsh weather on its
own will fall, while together, the many flexible reeds will resist, become
stronger and thrive. Just like women and men who work together, pooling their
resources, skills, knowledge and experience, moved by the same aspiration to
create a peaceful, inclusive and just society, based on a deep respect and acknowledgement
of each others’ humanity and talents.

The privilege we have at Womanity is to be able to
meet and cooperate with such people, who courageously and persistently build
durable solutions to difficult social problems, in hostile contexts. All they
need is some interest from our part, a bit of solidarity, and a share of what
we have and what we know. We can all be part of the common effort to change
things for good.

The Womanity Foundation aims to empower girls and women to shape their future and accelerate progress within their communities, and realise their equal and full social, economic and political participation. It was established in 2005 and is registered in Switzerland, the
UK and the USA. More on
www.womanity.org .

This thought-piece was developed for the Sustainable Luxury Forum in Geneva. The focus of the forum in 2015 is ‘How to Address Soaring Inequalities, Scarcities and Complexities’.