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Helping a Family Pay Tribute to their Daughter with Clean Water Projects in Africa

I remember where I was on July 22 two years ago, when reports of a massacre in Norway started to break.

I remember where I was on July 22 two years ago, when reports of a massacre in Norway started to break. Sitting at my desk, I couldn’t believe the news alerts. A single gunman calmly landed on Utøya island off the Norwegian coast and began shooting his way through a camp of teenagers, 69 of whom were killed. This after he killed eight people with a car bomb in in Oslo, where I had been just eight weeks prior.


The remainder of the day was spent with the VOSS Water and Voss Foundation teams, around the TV in our office, as we frantically tried to find out whether our friends, family, and colleagues were safe.

That night, driving out of the city, I was shaking so hard that I had to pull over. I knew this horror would forever change Norway, a nation I have come to know and love.

What I never imagined at that moment was that something positive could come out of this, and the impact it would have on Voss Foundation, where I am Executive Director. It’s a nonprofit organization, founded by VOSS of Norway ASA, dedicated to providing access to clean water to communities in Sub-Saharan Africa and raising awareness of ongoing needs in the region.

One of the young people killed that day in Utøya was 19-year-old Lene Maria Bergum. To honor her memory, her family chose to build a water project in Sub-Saharan Africa with Voss Foundation. As they told us, “Her friends have described her as the world’s nicest person and that she cared about everyone and everything.”

They couldn’t have picked a better way to memorialize her. More than 300 million people in Africa lack access to safe water. Every year, women and children spend 40 billion hours walking to the nearest water source, which is often unprotected and frequently causes disease. Diarrhea kills one child every 20 seconds. As you can see, our clean water projects are life-changing for their communities, especially for the women and children.

The Bergums proceeded to raise funds for the project in their community of Namsos, Norway. Their efforts have been so successful that they have gone on to fund five of our clean water projects in Africa through Lene Maria for Rent Vann (or Lene Maria for Clean Water, in English). This February, they visited their first completed project in Kenya, and have committed to raising money to fund even more.

As the two-year anniversary of the tragedy approached, we at Voss Foundation were looking for a way to recognize the Bergums for their selflessness. We learned about a platform called Thunderclap, which presented a perfect opportunity to generate awareness about their initiatives and the on-going water crisis in Sub-Saharan Africa in a grassroots strategy similar to that which the Bergums employ.

Thunderclap empowers individuals to come together on social media to express themselves collectively. It’s not about attracting donations. It’s about creating a moment of global awareness. We registered #CleanWater for Africa on their site and gave people a deadline before which they had to register their endorsement—like signing a petition—on Facebook, Twitter and/or Tumblr. On the set date, if enough people have signed up to show their support of the Bergum family’s incredible work with Voss Foundation, Thunderclap will blast the social media channels at once with our message, generating a “thunderclap” of impact. It will be such a powerful way to echo what the Bergums have done in Lene Maria’s memory with the voices of their supporters in applauding them.

As the new mother of a baby girl, I cannot imagine what the Bergums went through on that terrible day in 2011. I am in awe of their ability to think beyond that pain and take action that has saved thousands of lives with clean water to ensure that their daughter did not die in vain.

Please join me in lending our online voices to cheer the Bergum family’s Lene Maria campaign with a thunderclap by noon on August 30, 2013. Here’s how:

1. Go to http://bit.ly/Water4Africa 


2. Click "Support with Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr" 


3. Click "Add My Support" to be counted

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This article was produced in partnership with the United Nations to launch the biggest-ever global conversation on the role of cooperation in building the future we want.

When half of the world's population doesn't share the same opportunity or rights as the other half, the whole world suffers. Like a bird whose wings require equal strength to fly, humanity will never soar to its full potential until we achieve gender equality.

That's why the United Nations made one of its Sustainable Development Goals to "Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls." That goal includes providing women and girls equal access to education and health care, as well as addressing gender-based discrimination and violence against women and girls.

While there is still much work to be done, history shows us that we are capable of making big leaps forward on this issue. Check out some of the milestones humanity has already reached on the path to true equality.

Historic Leaps Toward Gender Equality

1848 The Seneca Falls Convention in New York, organized by Elizabeth Lady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, is the first U.S. women's convention to discuss the oppression of women in sociopolitical, economic, and religious life.

1893 New Zealand becomes the first self-governing nation to grant national voting rights to women.

1903 Marie Curie becomes the first woman to win a Nobel Prize. She is also the only woman to win multiple Nobel Prizes, for Physics in 1903 and Chemistry in 1911.

1920 The 19th Amendment is passed in the U.S. giving women the right to vote in all 50 U.S. states.

1973 The U.S. Open becomes the first major sports tournament of its kind to offer equal pay to women, after tennis star Billie Jean King threatened to boycott.

1975 The first World Conference on Women is held in Mexico, where a 10-year World Plan of Action for the Advancement of Women is formed. The first International Women's Day is commemorated by the UN in the same year.

1979 The UN General Assembly adopts the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), also known as the "Women's Bill of Rights." It is the most comprehensive international document protecting the rights of women, and the second most ratified UN human rights treaty after the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

1980 Vigdis Finnbogadottir of Iceland becomes the first woman to be elected head of state in a national election.

1993 The UN General Assembly adopts the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, the first international instrument to explicitly define forms of violence against women and lay out a framework for global action.

2010 The UN General Assembly creates the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) to speed progress on meeting the needs of women and girls around the world.

2018 The UN and European Union join forces on the Spotlight Initiative, a global, multi-year initiative focused on eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls.

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As the UN celebrates its 75th anniversary, it is redoubling its commitment to reach all 17 Sustainable Development Goals, including gender equality. But it will take action and effort from everyone to ensure that women and girls are free from discrimination and violence. Learn more about what is being done to address gender equality and see how you can get involved here.

And join the global conversation about the role of international cooperation in building the future by taking the UN75 survey here.

Let's make sure we all have a say in the future we want to see.

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