To solve the world’s biggest problems, invest in women and girls | Musimbi Kanyoro

To solve the world’s biggest problems, invest in women and girls | Musimbi Kanyoro

My mother was a philanthropist. And now I know you’re asking — let me give you the answer:
yes, a little bit like Melinda Gates — (Laughter) but with a lot less money. (Laughter) She carried out her philanthropy
in our community through a practice we call, “isirika.” She supported the education
of scores of children and invited many
to live with us in our home in order to access schools. She mobilized resources
for building the local health clinic and the maternity wing
is named in memory of her. But most important, she was endeared by the community
for her organizing skills, because she organized the community, and specifically women, to find solutions to anything that was needed. She did all of this through isirika. Let me repeat that word for you again: isirika. Now it’s your turn. Say it with me. (Audience) Isirika. Musimbi Kanyoro: Thank you. That word is in my language, Maragoli, spoken in western Kenya, and now you speak my language. (Laughter) So, isirika is a pragmatic way of life that embraces charity, services and philanthropy all together. The essence of isirika is to make it clear to everybody that you’re your sister’s keeper — and yes, you’re your brother’s keeper. Mutual responsibility
for caring for one another. A literal, simple English translation
would be equal generosity, but the deep philosophical meaning is caring, together, for one another. So how does isirika really happen? I grew up in a farming community in western Kenya. I remember vividly the many times that neighbors would go
to a neighbor’s home — a sick neighbor’s home — and harvest their crop for them. I tagged alongside with my mother
to community events and to women’s events, and had the conversation
about vaccinations in school, building the health center and really big things — renewing seeds for the next
planting season. And often, the community
would come together to contribute money
to send a neighbor’s child to school — not only in the country but to universities abroad as well. And so we have a surgeon. The first surgeon in my country
came from that rural village. (Applause) So … what isirika did was to be inclusive. We as children would stand
alongside the adults and give our contributions of money, and our names were inscripted
in the community book just like every adult. And then I grew up, went to universities
back at home and abroad, obtained a few degrees here and there, became organized and took up international jobs, working in development, humanitarian work and philanthropy. And very soon, isirika began to become small. It dissipated and then just disappeared. In each place, I gained a new vocabulary. The vocabulary of donors and recipients. The vocabulary of measuring impact, return on investment … projects and programs. Communities such as my childhood community became referred to
as “poor, vulnerable populations.” Those are the communities
of which literature speaks about as living on less than a dollar a day, and they become the targets
for poverty eradication programs. And by the way, they are the targets of our first United Nations’
sustainable development goal. Now, I’m really interested that we find solutions to poverty and to the world’s other many big problems because they do exist. I however think
that we could do a better job, and we could do a better job
by embracing isirika. So let me tell you how. First, isirika affirms common humanity. For whatever that you do, you begin from the premise
that you’re human together. When you begin that you’re human together, you see each other differently. You don’t see a refugee first and you don’t see a woman first and you don’t see
a person with disability first. You see a human being first. That is the essence
of seeing a person first. And when you do that, you value their ideas, you value their contribution — small or big. And you value what
they bring to the table. That is the essence of isirika. I just want to imagine
what it would look like if everyone in this room — a medical doctor, a parent, a lawyer, a philanthropist, whatever you are — if you embraced isirika and made it your default. What could we achieve for each other? What could we achieve for humanity? What could we achieve for peace issues? What could we achieve for medical science? Let me give you a couple of hints, because I’m going to ask you
to accompany me in this process of rebuilding
and reclaiming isirika with me. First, you have to have faith that we are one humanity, we have one planet and we don’t have two choices about that. So there’s not going to be a wall
that is high enough to separate humanity. So give up the walls. Give them up. (Applause) And we don’t have a planet B to go to. So that’s really important. Make that clear; move onto the next stage. The second stage: remember, in isirika, every idea counts. Bridges have big posters and they have nails. Every idea counts — small or big counts. And third, isirika affirms that those who have more
really enjoy the privilege of giving more. It is a privilege to give more. (Applause) And this is the time
for women to give more for women. It is the time to give more for women. Our parents, when they brought in
other children to live with us, they didn’t ask our permission. They made it clear
that they had a responsibility because they had gone to school and they had an earning. And they made it clear
that we should understand that their prosperity
was not our entitlement, and I think that’s good
wisdom from isirika. We could use that wisdom today,
I think, in every culture, in every place, passing to the next generation
what we could do together. I have, over the years, encountered isirika in many places, but what gives me really the passion today to embrace isirika is the work that I do
with women all over the world through the Global Fund for Women, though women’s funds and through women’s movements globally. If you work with women, you change every day because you experience them living
isirika together in what they do. In the work that I do, we trust women leaders and their ideas. And we support them with funding
so that they can expand, they can grow and they can thrive
within their own communities. A woman in 1990 came
to the Global Fund with a big idea — a woman from Mexico
by the name of Lucero González. She wanted to begin a fund
that would support a movement that would be rooted
in the communities in Mexico. And she received a grant
of 7,500 US dollars. Today, 25 years later, Semillas, the name of the fund, has raised and spent, within the community, 17.8 million dollars. (Applause) They have impacted
over two million people, and they work with a group
of 600,000 women in Mexico. During the recent earthquake, they were so well rooted that they could quickly assess
within the community and with others, what were the short-term needs
and what were the long-term needs. And I tell you, long after the lights
have gone off Mexico, Semillas will be there with the communities, with the women, for a very long time. And that’s what I’m talking about: when we are able to support
the ideas of communities that are rooted within their own setting. Thirty years ago, there was very little funding
that went directly to women’s hands in their communities. Today we celebrate 168 women’s funds all over the world, 100 of which are in this country. And they support — (Applause) they support grassroots
women’s organizations — community organizations
under the leadership of girls and women, and together we have been able, collectively, to give a billion dollars
to women and girls-led organizations. (Applause) But the challenge begins today. The challenge begins today because we see women everywhere
organizing as isirika, including women
organizing as isirika in TED. Because isirika is the evergreen wisdom
that lives in communities. You find it in indigenous communities, in rural communities. And what it really ingrains in people is that ability to trust and to move the agenda ahead. So, three things that I have learned
that I want to share with you through my work. One: if you want to solve
the world’s biggest problems, invest in women and girls. (Applause) Not only do they expand the investment, but they care for everyone
in the community. Not only their needs
but the needs of their children, the needs of the rest of the community, the needs of the elderly, and most important, they protect themselves — which is really important — and they protect their communities. Women who know how to protect themselves know what it means to make a difference. And the second reason that I’m asking
you to invest in women and girls is because this is the smartest
thing you could ever do at this particular time. And if we are going to have over 350 trillion dollars by 2030, those dollars need to be
in the hands of women. And so I grew up with isirika. My mother was isirika. She was not a project or a program. And now, I pass that to you. That you will be able
to share this with your families, with your friends and with your community, and embrace isirika as a way of living — as a pragmatic way of living. Thank you. (Applause) Thank you. (Applause) Thank you. (Applause)


  1. The radical rightists on YouTube are such pests. If you equate empowering women IN AFRICAN VILLAGES to radical anti-male gender war, it makes sense that you hangout on YouTube & race to all the videos that trigger you with their African speakers & “feminist” titles to share your discontent because obviously you’re too highly insecure for dealing with real life. If you can’t even handle VILLAGE WOMEN being empowered in their VILLAGES haha no wonder you lurk on YouTube & race to TedTalk videos like these. ?

  2. See, any time anyone mentions equality between the sexes on a global/big-picture scale, the SJW’S have to make it america-centered, which is NOT what we need. There is no dispute that women have very unjust disadvantages in the world, but so does any minority. It shouldn’t be a tantrum about privilege but what we do to correct our faults. Stop whining about how men are trash and join a march for the demolishment of rape culture in education; stop crying over Hillary’s loss (cough, gerrymandering) and work to address corrupt politicians to let them know we’ll fight for constitutional rights; and for the love of god, give up on the oppression olympics. The governments want us to be blinded by our own internal disagreements so we can continue to be controlled for profit. Stop debating in comment sections and start joining actual movements that will change the world for the better (or worse)!

  3. What a beautiful, inspiring Ted talk. I especially liked the part about how all people are humans, and we should see each other as that. I think this was a lovely reminder to be kind to people, no matter the age, race, gender, etc. Thank you for your wisdom!

  4. She isn't saying that men will be benched because women solve problems better. If you invest in women, they can help humans make the world better because they could CONTRIBUTE, which means "add." It does not mean "take away" or "take over."
    More contribution from women, disabled, refugees (people usually discriminated against) = more help, and more success for EVERYONE.
    Discriminated people have more barriers to overcome, but if people help them, they can give back to whole humanity.
    That is just a rough breakdown of what the video is saying.

  5. By the way:
    Imagine if we all flagged this video, reporter TED for hate speech, and UNSUBSCRIBED…
    Just saying…

  6. She is speaking for the societies where women are pushed back. This talk does not give much value in the west, where women are already empowered.

    We must understand that she is coming from the society where women are regarded almost as "nothing" and left out. Therefore this talk has meaning for those societies. "Ted talk" via the internet is global event watched all over the world.

  7. It's because wemen do not hit each other, right. Would be pretty bloody with long nails. You gone get it in your hair, face, and cloth. Not just the victim. Maybe thats why Wemen-Warefare is under the surface like a submarine. Thats why they are so god dawn terrifying. We would be at war without even recognizing it. I might be a troll but if you call this sexist but not that speech you are an idiot. Remember the girls not allowed sign at your fortress, wait that's a thing in the western world that CHILDREN do because little girls start crying all the time.

  8. As vessels of creation women are not simply the future…
    Our natural essence is akin to the ancient running rivers that hug the earth and give freely to all of creation.
    The patriarchal mindset of our sick society is THE reason Mother Earth has been so savagely taken advantage of.
    THE reason why this woman has to get on stage and remind us of our basic, shared HUMANITY… the reason for so many dislikes.ha
    No gender is above the other- however, we ARE fundamentally different. Duality is the nature of ALL things.
    Investing specifically in women & girls all around the globe will bring much-needed BALANCE to the brutish, male-dominated landscape that plagues us all..

    &As with any oppressed group, you have to wonder where the dire need to smother our flame comes from… hmm.
    Women are the personification of the wisdom of the Universe! We Will Light Up This World, Together.=) =) =)
    Do not be upset with us for knowing this. And more importantly…
    Do Not Try To Stop Us. Support Us.

  9. if the whole world's population right now suddenly was only men or only women, then that entire population would eventually die out.
    women need men and men need women.

  10. there are countries in the world where men include women on an equal footing, those countries are doing well, actually ,very well, they put people first and not greed,and lets face it the men in the world that cause death and destruction are of a certain kind, a,s,p,d

  11. Well, yeah, cause you women seem to wreck the most havok on humanity… from teaching children it's alright to step on others to gain material worth, to picking men based on their wealth or exterior appearance. See billions tv series and how the couple, especially the blonde wife, justifies how they got where they are. It's a great summary of how women think and how they influence children and men towards a lesser world. Not all women, just those that do leave a mark on the world, and at this point I'm wondering if investing in women who might not want to be invested in will allow things to go the right way or how much of this investment go towards women with no impact on the world.

  12. Maybe She mean to more care women and girls, doesnt mean to discrimination. For community, mostly women have time to community development than man, mostly man have time to work regurarly (such as office and others). In my opinion.

  13. Take your garbage opinion on how to make the country a better place back to Maragoli we don't want it here ok thanks.

  14. The concept of Isirika is so foreign to Eoropean/Euro-Americans that it will never, ever take root within their culture.  They will loudly profess a desire for it, but without any intention of practicing it.  Such is the nature of the Eurocentric mindset.  And so this all makes the sister's lecture on this TED TALKS platform a waste of time.  And as long as Afrika's descendants in America live according to the western practice of denying the humanity of females, We will continue to treat our own females like European/Euro-American males treat theirs.  Peace.

  15. This was a beautiful, eloquent talk! It really challenges my view of the world and my way of thinking. Thank you!

  16. Women in developed countries can donate their divorce settlements and alimony to women in developing countries. Problem solved.

  17. 0:37 Recorded at TEDwomen

    Welcome to Tedwomen, where women tell women how great they are and better than men. 🙂

  18. The creation of an existence only serves those that already exist and nobody masters this creation neither the way that will follow this existence. Once you have made a suffering being, how do you undo suffering?
    We can solve all human problems by making everyone understand that we are all innocent to exist, therefore innocent of all our actions. Simply calling into question the responsibility of our actions since we are not responsible to exist, should allow a general awareness of what humanity is. The innocence to exist has implications in all areas, educational, judicial, political, etc. It's not about having any ideology (capitalism, socialism, communism, anarchism, feminism, etc.) to change the world, it's all about knowing what we are.
    We should all have been kindly "invited" to Earth.

  19. Most commenters read the title and gave a thumbs down. Ignore the trolls. The talk is worth 14 minutes of your life. Hopefully you will be inspired to help others.

  20. Came here for the comments, knowing what the (dis)like ratio was gonna be…though about a 1/3 better than predicted.

  21. Great speech!
    It is HER perspective for her experience has presented theses results. I don't understand why many people are disliking this speech. Do you all have a serious brain damage? She, in any moment, said that men are less important than women. For God's sake. Her experience shows that women care, and can do wonders to their communities so she is trying to raise funds to WOMEN PROJECTS. It is being beneficial, so why the hatred? So many brain damaged people talking imbecilities in here.

  22. To solve the world's biggest problem, listen and try to understand what someone is trying to say. Then build a web of thought so we can come together and lift the entire world's population up.

  23. Please TED talks publish your videos also on LBRY.IO it will be so much more comfortable to watch your videos there and I would never miss any of your talks.

  24. she says invest in women, because in many underdeveloped countries, women's situations are worse than men's situations. She's giving solutions to countries where women doesn't have the same access to education and resources like men does. Feminist fights are different in every country because not all the countries have the same problem, some countries ask for justice for women who receive dicks pics, others ask for justice for female genital mutilation. The whole point of her speech is to spread isirika (generosity) all over the world and give a little more to women where their conditions aren't equal to men.

  25. i like the idea of isirika. while maybe the title is a lil bit sexist, but i got the idea that women, who spend more time in the community, in home, in family, actually can make impact. because mother can actually make good decision for the children. so that is why, the point is, as a parent, we have to teach children good, to direct them, to make them involved in the community.

  26. Cmn u feminists women have more rights than ever before and get more uni degrees than boys. If sb is born in a developing country doesn't matter the gender u gonna suffer no matter what

  27. I actually love that there are bad talks too, because everyone rejoices in the comment section and gives a proper judgement.

  28. She is right its time to give the leadership to women , most of the men all they do is war, fight , ruining the world. If the presidents if the top managers are women world will better than it used to be than it is now.

  29. So kind speech ever, the essence of being human. The thing should have to overcome from all the minds. Humans should treat like Humans not to compare the things you said"small or big"everyone should have this quote

  30. Yeah right!
    I'm a woman and I say: Absolutely not!
    If the Men of a particular culture do nothing to protect the welfare of women and girls, nothing we do to try to "invest" in them will work long term.
    The men in every culture of the world should stand up for their own women and children.
    If they don't, nothing anybody outside of that culture does will help those women and girls. Nothing.
    Everything trying to look like it helps, is all smoke and mirrors. I.e. the Clinton Foundation…

  31. Good lord some off you men are really women. History of mankind has and still is dominated in every form by men. So a lady gets up on a youtube channel and says invest in us and yall so called men get all but hurt lol. This is whats wrong with the world weak minded men. For crying out loud I hope none of yall are raising girls.

  32. Werent most of the greatest achievements contributing to the progres of humanity made up by males (technology, physics, biology, chemistry, mathematics, medicine, politics, society etc.)?

  33. A great, inspiring, well-structure speech. Alas, in the end she screw up everything. Promoting women's rights doesn't mean you have to diminish the value and qualities of the opposite gender. I actually don't think she meant any harm but next time I appeal you to be more careful. In the other hand, I feel repulsed by the hyperbolic reaction taken by some of the users, who use this unfortunate occurrence to trash talk, only to push their political agenda through everyone's throat. Sadly, this is the internet for you.

  34. Tell me again why are women and girls more important than men and boys?
    Why wouldn't your idea be applicable to every child?

  35. Hitch said this in 1980 but it takes someone who dresses like she’s in a drum circle to get it on a TED talk? Yawn

  36. Why is it every time a liberal gets on the stage it involves me spending money ? The only liberals I ever see are pushy women or men with no balls .

  37. Hey Musimbi! I like Isirika, we need to be theorising that in the Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians! Great talk. I am impressed, big sister.

  38. Empirical evidence in international development shows that investing in women in underdeveloped communities does deliver more good dollar for dollar than investing the same in local men because of the roles women fulfil in these communities. I don't understand why this is incurring such anger and why people (mostly Western men) are taking this so personally? How is this sexist?

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