Today I thought I’d share with you an inspiring story of two women who individually were so outraged at the Bush administration’s decision to withhold all of the $34million allocated to the UNFPA that they took action – serious action! So today we meet Lois Abraham from New Mexico and Jane Roberts from California and hear about their 34 million friends….
Over the coming weeks we at The Brave Discussion will be unveiling our own community grassroots campaign aimed at changing the story on a number of issues, inspired by these two remarkable women.
It began with Jane’s letter to her local paper – the San Bernardino Sun:
“A week has passed since the Bush administration decided to deny the $34 million voted by Congress for the United Nations Population Fund. Ho Hum, this is vacation time. Columnists have written about it and newspapers have printed editorials of lament. Ho Hum. More women die in childbirth in a few days than terrorism kills people in a year. Ho Hum. Some little girl is having her genitals cut with a cactus needle. Ho hum, that’s just a cultural thing.
As an exercise in outraged democracy, would 34 million of my fellow citizens please join me in sending one dollar each to the US Committee for UNFPA? That would right a terrible wrong…. And drown out the Ho Hums.
The result of that letter was The “34 Million Friends” campaign a grass-roots movement that was independently initiated in July 2002 by two American women, Lois Abraham of New Mexico and Jane Roberts of California.
Although they had never met, Lois and Jane were both outraged by the United States withdrawal of $34 million approved for UNFPA and they decided to take action. Each woman started her own email campaign, urging men and women across the United States to donate just $1 or more to help bridge the funding gap.
Apparently Lois cold called the UNFPA and told them she was sending out a chain letter campaign to get her friends and their friends to each send them $5 dollars.
The UNFPA didn’t have much of a public image and rarely received contributions so you can imagine their surprise when bags of mail started piling up in their mail room.
The great part to this story is that because the UNFPA had promised that all the money donated would go to the programs they had to enlist help. It went from staff volunteering their time at lunch time to open envelopes to finally the UN foundation providing a grant to hire staff to handle the mail. People power!
The UNFPA informed Lois and Jane about each other and they teamed up to formalise their campaign as 34 million friends of UNFPA. They began going on speaking tours and the movement gained steam. Contributing a dollar was very easy to do! We can all make a difference.
Jane and Lois’ goal continues to be to find 34 million friends to help UNFPA continue its invaluable work as the largest multilateral provider of family planning and maternal health care. So far, over 100,000 individuals and donors have contributed over $4 million.
Jane and Lois maintain an active schedule of speaking engagements and other activities to rally support for UNFPA’s work and continue the momentum of 34 Million Friends.
Who is the UNFPA?
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is an international development agency that promotes the right of every woman, man and child to enjoy a life of health and equal opportunity. UNFPA supports countries in using population data for policies and programmes to reduce poverty and to ensure that every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe, every young person is free of HIV/AIDS, and every girl and woman is treated with dignity and respect.