Thanks to Womenetics, Atlanta becoming a growing center for women’s issues

By Maria Saporta

If Elisabeth Marchant has her way, Atlanta will become a hub of women’s issues and collaboration.

Three years ago, Marchant started Womenetics, a global media platform that reaches readers in more than 140 countries.

And then Marchant started the annual Womenetics conference in 2010 bringing thought leaders from around the country and the world to focus of four different areas — economic employment, health and hunger, education and literacy, and human rights.

Womenetics held its second annual conference — Global Women’s Initiative — on Sept. 30 when it invited 21 powerful women leaders from around the world, including philanthropist Ambassador Swanee Hunt and Naomi Tutu, the daughter of anti-apartheid leader —Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

“I think Atlanta is critical to the whole message,” Marchant said. “We are going to consider that Atlanta is going to be headquartered for these discussions.”

The issue of sex trafficking and human rights dominated this year’s conference.

Ambassador Hunt said that there are only three ways to target human trafficking.

“You an either work on the supply, the distribution and the demand,” she said, adding that her foundation has decided to focus on the demand side and has committed $7.5 million towards that effort.

“We have got 11 to 12 women being arrested for every one man,” said Hunt, who obviously felt that women were being unfairly targeted.

To curb demand, Hunt said it will take a change in attitude.

For those who are skeptical about society’s ability to change, Hunt offered three examples. Back in the 1950s, people regularly littered without giving their trash a second thought.

But a far-reaching public awareness campaign, with the tagline — “Don’t be a litterbug” — quickly changed people’s minds and behavior.

Two other examples that Hunt mentioned were the use of seat belts, which has now become nearly universal; and the seriousness of domestic violence, something that has become less and less accepted.

“In just one generation, we made massive across the board social change,” Hunt said.

In many ways, that’s what Marchant has been trying to do with Womenetics.

“I felt the time was right regarding women in leadership roles on issues that had to be discussed,” Marchant said. “Once women are empowered to be leaders, communities change and families change. Our goal here is to communicate positive messages.”

Marchant, who was pleased that 500 people attended this year’s event, has already set the date for next year’s conference — Sept. 21, 2012.

“These are issues that I’ve been thinking about for a long time,” Marchant said. “But up until now, I haven’t had the platform that I have now.”

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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