By: Jill Sheffield with Maz Kessler; Originally posted on Huffington Post
When I was 27 years old, I met a young mother who became one of my greatest inspirations and left a lasting impression on my life.
I was an idealistic young volunteer at a family planning clinic in Nairobi, Kenya. One morning, a woman my own age walked in asking for contraceptives. She carried a newborn baby on her front, and another, older baby on her back. She told me that she had already been pregnant 11 times, but only had six living children.
I was immediately struck by the fact that although we were the same age, I had so many choices that she did not. Back then, Kenya, like so many other countries, required a woman to have her husband's signature in order to access contraceptives.
I made sure the young mother received the contraceptives, and I pledged to work to ensure that women everywhere had access to the services they needed to plan their fertility and their lives.
That young mother stays with me as a constant reminder of what I continue to fight for.
Throughout the years, I've met and worked with so many inspiring people around the globe advocating for girls and women. And every day, many more people reach out and ask, "How can I help?"
This question spurred Women Deliver to launch our latest initiative, Catapult —an online funding platform where people everywhere can now join forces to advance the lives of girls and women.
Whether you have $5 or $50, or even $5,000, through Catapult you can choose exactly how you want to give, and help create opportunities for girls and women every day.
If saving the lives of mothers and babies is your calling, we currently have 16 incredible, affordable projects on Catapult that need your support. We also have projects on ending gender-based violence, fighting for economic empowerment, ensuring access to family planning and clean drinking water, advocating for LGBTQ rights, and providing essential services for girls and women in conflict zones.
Catapult draws upon the unique potential of social networks, which enable young people across the world to connect to like-minded peers and share ideas, information and innovations. More than ever before, youth are joining forces to learn from one another and bring change to their countries and communities.
At Women Deliver, we open up collaborative spaces that can turn young people's good intentions into positive change. Our Deliver for Youth newsletter brings the latest news and events to thousands of young advocates around the world. We also work to ensure that youth have a strong presence at our global conferences. Young people attend e-courses prior to the meetings, participate in Youth Symposiums to scale up their communications and advocacy skills, speak on high-level plenary and concurrent panels, and advise conference organizers as part of the Youth Working Group.
We believe that the success of our conferences lie in the passion and dedication of all of our participants -- across generations and sectors -- to build a better world for girls and women. We convene changemakers to bring about real, measurable success. Together, we aim to further progress to reduce maternal deaths and achieve universal access to reproductive health services.
The Lancet's Richard Horton described our last conference in 2010 as "the most significant event of the future of women and children in 20 years." Our upcoming conference this May in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia will be even bigger and better. We expect over 5,000 participants to join us as we work to ensure that girls and women are a top development priority today, in 2015, and beyond.
We know that advancing the lives of girls and women worldwide is an ambitious goal. If we are to reach it, AND WE CAN, then we can't afford to leave anyone out of the equation.
So for all the people who ask, "How can I help?"-- join us this May in Kuala Lumpur, visit Catapult, and help us catapult girls and women forward!