What inspired you to start 34 Million Friends?
For some reason, all my life, and I’m 64 right now, I have had an interest in women's and girls' rights, welfare, health, particularly reproductive health. And I have kept myself informed particularly about reproductive health issues in poor countries. I have been aware for a number of years of the work of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) which tries to save women's lives in childbirth, offers family planning, does AIDS education for the huge numbers of adolescents on the planet and fights against forced early marriage for girls and female genital mutilation. It also stresses equal access to education for girls.
So when the Bush Administration refused to release the $34 million Congress had approved, I was furious. This seemed such a small minded, mean-spirited slap at the poorest most vulnerable women in the world and I know it hurts our reputation. So literally at 3 o'clock in the morning I had this inspiration of asking 34 million Americans to chip in at least one dollar, 34 million Americans who don't fear dying in childbirth, and who have all kinds of choices for planning their families.
And the rest is history. Lois Abraham (the other woman who had this same inspiration) and I aren't Oprah and Angelina, but our little effort (www.34millionfriends.org) has saved lives, lessened misery, and sent a wonderful message to the world from the American people.
What would I say to people who would be intimidated by such a big project and would feel that one person couldn't make a difference?
I would say what Doris Haddock says in her book Granny D. Doris Haddock was a woman in her nineties who walked across the country for campaign finance reform. She says," We are all dying and we might as well be spending ourselves in a good cause”. And "Never be discouraged from being an activist because people tell you that you'll not succeed. You have already succeeded if you're out there representing the truth or justice, or compassion or fairness or love". Truer words were never spoken and I include them in my book at the beginning of the "My Travels" chapter because they have kept me going and going like the Energizer Bunny. I have become exceedingly stubborn about joyfully and relentlessly trying to find 34 Million Friends of the women of the world, which is the title of my book by golly!
What has been the most challenging part of your effort?
Probably the most challenging parts have been learning to use the internet properly. 34 Million Friends would be impossible without the internet. And also, I have taken lengthy trips by myself, flying to different cities, renting cars, following my maps, keeping track of everything. I enjoy it and it makes me nervous at the same time, but for this cause I will do just about anything!
Who are some Daring Females who have inspired you?
Let me mention first Margaret Sanger who early in the 20th century was a pioneer for birth control. And the early feminists who fought for the vote and had a vision of what women's equality could mean, and then Eleanor Roosevelt and today Kate Michelman who has given her life for freedom of choice. And in 2005 the Swiss Commission for UNESCO nominated 1000 women worldwide for the Nobel Peace Prize, women from all corners of the earth, not famous, not well known, who in their quiet and grassroots way, fight for justice.
Lois and I were "one" of these women, but I admire the 999 others and all the others
whom they represent. (You can learn more about the women at www.1000peacewomen.org.)
It you weren’t working on the 34 Million Friends project, what would you be doing?
I can't imagine doing anything else right now. I have a wonderful husband, two grown kids, and I have the time to pursue this cause with wonderful support from my family. So I would
say conservatively that for the past three and one half years I have spent at least
40 hours per week. As a retired French and tennis teacher, I have the time. Time is such a gift at this latter stage of my life to do what my heart calls on me to do. I am very very fortunate. So I figure I'm in this all the way for ever. Why not!
To learn more about Jane, the 34 Million Friends project and her book, 34 Million Friends of the Women of the World, please visit www.34millionfriends.org. Jane is donating all of the royalties from the sale of her book to the 34 Million Friends effort.