At the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Annual Meeting this week, Khalida Brohi spoke on a plenary panel literally filled with rock stars including President Clinton, Christine Lagarde, Mo Ibrahim, Sheryl Sandberg and Bono, but Khalida shone brightest of all. Bono, at one point, interrupted her with a gasp and said “Khalida, you are awesome.” He is right. Khalida spoke about her work fighting to end honor killings in Pakistan, and of the many times she cried growing up as she witnessed tragedies unfolding around her. She spoke of her father, who dried her tears and said, “My dear, do not cry. Strategize.”
In my senior year of college, I watched as most of my friends frantically faxed their CVs off and checked their answering machines for messages about interviews. People asked me, ‘Why are you so calm?’ I was not rushing about, because I already knew: I was going to Africa. We all have a place where we feel ourselves, a place to which we are drawn, and most of the time there is just no explaining it. My mom believes she was Native American in another life and feels most at home in New Mexico. My dad—an Irish-American through and through—cycles, speaks and drinks cappuccino like a native Italian. I first came to truly know myself sitting under a thorn tree in Namibia.
In September 2011, I had the good fortune to participate in the first-ever Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Women in the Economy Summit. This historic event was driven by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and like so many initiatives launched during her time in office, it was designed not only to inspire, but to spur action for change. As I listened to Secretary Clinton and other dynamic speakers—women who had achieved the highest levels of success and impact in business, government, and civil society—the idea for a book was born.