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Iman's call to women: 'On the elevator up, take some people with you'

The model spoke to Know Your Value at the 2019 Global Citizen Festival about how women can advocate for themselves, and what leaders can do to empower girls around the world.
Image: Iman speaks at the Global Citizen Festival in Central Park on Sept. 28, 2019.
Iman speaks at the Global Citizen Festival in Central Park on Sept. 28, 2019.Eduardo Munoz / Reuters

Supermodel and fashion designer Iman spoke passionately Saturday about the extreme disparity between the funds that male- and female-owned businesses receive—and how the lack of investment in women hurts everyone.

“Supporting businesses owned by women means that everyone rises,” Iman said in her speech at the Global Citizen Festival, an annual event featuring musicians and activists encouraging people to act to end extreme poverty by 2030. More than 60,000 people swarmed New York City’s Central Park to attend the 2019 event.

Governments and companies spend trillions each year on products and services, but only 1 percent of that money goes to women-owned businesses, she added.

The effects of that figure are far-reaching, as research shows that when women do have money they reinvest it in their communities and families, said Iman, who last week was named the first-ever global advocate for CARE, an anti-poverty and humanitarian organization.

Iman expanded on that theme in an interview with Know Your Value contributor Daniela Pierre-Bravo, saying “empowering women is a way to get them out of poverty.”

“Listen to their voices and listen to their stories, because they have something to say about their conditions,” she added. “We’ve had a tendency for years and years to speak down to people, or to speak for them. We want to give them a voice so they can speak for themselves.”

Pierre-Bravo asked what women can do “on a micro-level” to enact change.

“It’s important that we, as women, empower each other,” Iman said. “We mentor the younger girls. We take them under our wing ... On the elevator up, take some people with you.”

That’s the kind of action at the focus of Global Citizen, whose mission is to build a community of 100 million engaged citizens who tackle poverty-linked issues including the plight of girls and women around the globe, food and hunger, water and sanitation, health, education and more.

The group says millions of Global Citizens around the world have taken 14 million actions—like writing emails, creating petitions and calling world leaders—to solve these challenges, helping to impact more than 650 million people’s lives.

The annual Global Citizen Festival is ticketed but free, inspiring people to take action through Global Citizen’s platform to earn tickets. This year’s musical lineup included Queen, Pharrell Williams, Alicia Keys, OneRepublic, H.E.R., Carole King and other special guests, and MSNBC and Comcast were two of the festival’s media partners

Even bigger plans are slated for next year, when Global Citizen will launch its biggest-ever campaign through “Global Goal Live: The Possible Dream,” a 10-hour concert to be held in September 2020 on five continents. Twin festivals will be broadcast live from New York City and Lagos, Nigeria, with satellite events held in as-yet-unannounced cities in Latin America, Europe and Asia.

The 2020 campaign, which marks the final decade before Global Citizen’s 2030 goal, will aim to secure an additional $350 billion in global commitments annually. According to the group, experts say that is the figure needed to provide citizens in 59 of the poorest nations with the basic necessities to live healthy and dignified lives.

To take action and be a part of the Global Citizen community, join here.