The Women in the World London Summit came to a close this afternoon and — if we may say so ourselves — it was a rollicking two days of gripping panels and evocative speakers.
You can find full coverage (and video!) of the event at the WITW homepage, or peruse the following highlights:
Everyone’s favorite human Meryl Streep joined director Sarah Gavron and producer Alison Owen in a discussion about their new film Suffragette, which depicts the militant brand of British feminists who went to extreme lengths for the sake of equal rights. Streep noted that the movement “was most upsetting to the powers that be because of its classlessness. There were women across all classes speaking and acting together, and that was so subversive [as] an idea.” In what is arguably a direct result of the suffragette’s efforts, Theresa May has been able to serve as the longest-acting UK Minister for Home Affairs. She sat down for a riveting conversation about her historic tenure, and the challenges of being a woman in politics.
First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon addressed domestic violence laws, while Mhairi Black opened up about her experience as the youngest Member of Parliament since 1667. Nicola Sturgeon has, in fact, tapped the 21-year-old as a future leader of the Scottish National Party. Before that happens, Black will probably have to move out of her parents’ house.
Queen Rania of Jordan spoke baldly about the strain that has been placed on her country by absorbing thousands of refugees from war-torn Syria. “The magnitude of this crisis has overwhelmed our ability to cope,” she said, and implored other nations to take action. Dr. Ursula von der Leyen, Germany’s Minister for Defense, revealed why Germany offers refuge to 10,000 new migrants every day: “We have learned out of our horrible history that you have to stand up and if people are being slaughtered, you have to protect them.” Von der Leyen delivered these powerful words on her 58th birthday. In light of all her noble efforts, we do hope she wrapped up the evening with a feast of cakes.
Three mothers shared devastating stories about the impact of Middle Eastern upheaval on their families. Saliha Ben Ali opened up about her son Sali, who ran away from his home in Belgium to join ISIS in 2013. He was killed three months after his arrival. Mervat Alsman spoke of her perilous escape from Damascus, during which she was forced to leave behind four of her five children. Zaina Erhaim, who is several months pregnant, is a former BBC journalist who resigned so she could report on the Syrian conflict. “My passport runs out soon so I will be stateless,” she said during the Summit. “So will my baby.”
Nicole Kidman is playing Rosalind Franklin, a ground-breaking chemist whose work went largely unrecognized, on London’s West End. The Oscar-winning actress shared her emotional reaction to the script. “I read the play and wept,” Kidman said. “I felt that there was an injustice and I wanted to be part of, if not righting it then at least putting her back into the dialogue beyond the scientific community.” Bollywood star Kangana Ranaut explained how she triumphed over cultural misogyny. Supermodel/actress/woman with impressive eyebrows Cara Delevingne spoke candidly about her struggle with depression. But first, she took off her stilettos. “Sorry I had to take my shoes off, ’cause I’m bloody scared,” she said.
Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee described how she helped end the Second Liberian Civil War with an interfaith band of women. Wrapping up the Summit was a discussion with the parents of Nobel laureate/all-around wunderkind Malala Yousafzai. Malala’s mother, Toor Pekai Yousafzai, has gone back to school to learn English, and told the audience that her daughter always make sure she does her homework. To be honest, we aren’t so surprised.