A GREAT Good Friday

On our very first visit to DC, a chilly weekend last October, to scope out the city as our imminent home, we crawled jetlagged onto the metro at an unpleasant hour of the morning. It might have made sense to start house hunting, or to embark on some general meandering to get a sense of the geography. However, not for us – we had enthusiastically signed up to an all-day Saturday conference. Fortunately it wasn’t just any conference – it was a very jolly, intriguing, inspiring and cupcake-laden TEDx conference. Since the theme was ‘a sense of place’, it felt apt. And when the snow started falling, we felt more than justified in huddling indoors with a few hundred similarly nerdy attendees whose enthusiasm for Saturday morning thinking and learning went some way to assuring me that we were going to fit in here. Though it did nothing for our jet lag…

Faced with my first day off in a while, after a very busy week, I imagined a luxurious day of reading my book in the sun, or going for a bike ride. Until I received the e-mail: oh yes, another TEDx. This one was actually a viewing party for the main event, convened by Melinda Gates and streamed from Berlin, with the added extra of ‘local voices’ speaking live on the stage afterwards. What better way to spend one’s Good Friday? The alarm clock this morning vigorously announced that there was none.

The topic of today’s TEDx conference was global health and development, and Gates used it to launch their campaign for equal access to contraceptives, aptly named ‘No Controversy’ in reference to the recent political controversy over access to birth control here as part of the debates about healthcare in the US. Gates attested ‘there is no controversy in matters of equality’. She emphasised that 200 million women have no access to birth control, and that an estimated 100,000 women’s lives would be saved each year if they did, not to mention halving the number of deaths of newborn babies. On 11 July this year, there will be a high-level event co-hosted by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the British Department for International Development which will aim to harness leadership and catalyse improvements in access to family planning tools for women in developing countries. Which, quite frankly, is another GREAT reason to visit London this summer.

In the meantime, the rest of a sunny Easter weekend in DC awaits… Hmmm, I wonder what other conferences are going on…

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