Going Digital with Activism: Women’s Rights

Actress and Women’s Rights Activist Maria Bello spoke about her involvement helping the people of Haiti – and the powerful impact of social media – at the Social Good Summit.

In the discussion with Brian Sirgutz, Co-Founder & Editor of The Huffington Post’s Impact, Maria explained how she always thought she would do Law. She began her career as an activist at Villanova University, where she majored in Peace and Justice Education and worked at the Women’s Law Project in Philadelphia. However, she took an acting class and suddenly knew that’s what she was supposed to do – act.

She was worried about not being able to make a difference, but then was given one great piece of advice:

You serve best doing the thing you love most.

Follow your talent and destiny, and leverage it to do good work, she was told. And she did. Eventually, she ended up in Haiti. 

“When I put my foot on the ground in Haiti, I knew I was fucked.” Maris says this because at that point, she knew it would be hard for her to  leave – she has a great family of support in Haiti with the community and other activists.

When it Haiti, she was asked to start something for Women. She noticed that all the big organizations doing stuff (with access to millions of dollars) did not have anything for women, and was frustrated that these women were not getting the help they would deserve.

“I was pissed off that the women’s groups in Haiti, who were most organized, weren’t getting the access and funding they deserved,” Bello said in her presentation.

So, she started something, which asks the community, “What is it that you need?”. So far they have graduated 200 students, and have a waiting list of 800. Half the people that have graduated already have their first jobs. Students then go teach a few others about Health, Hyena, Human Rights, Gender-Based Violence.

Right after the Earthquake, there was a big disconnect with all the NGOs – even if Red Cross was down the street, the women wouldn’t know what services they offer. They built an online system with resources and contacts. This is all part of the online system they are building, called We Advance University.

Now, the organization is provide texting services for women who have been abused, sending out notifications and sourcing help within their community – just one of many ways Maria has made an impact.