Advocate profile: Not in Kansas anymore

As we reflect on the role of women this International Women's Day (March 8), seasoned advocate Bobbi Dauderman speaks to us about her passion for advocacy and the role of women in our world.

By Cat-Dan Lai-Smith
Published March 6, 2012 at 12:00am PST

Meet Bobbi Dauderman. In her lifetime, she's held many roles including pastor’s daughter, wife, missionary, mother, and advocate.  Her journey has taken her all the way from Kansas to the Dominican Republic for years of service, back to the United States, and up to the very steps of Capitol Hill.

I had the privilege of speaking with Bobbi. Below are excerpts from our conversation where I learned more about this remarkable woman and her inspiring story that still changes lives today.

When did you first learn about advocacy issues that touched your heart? 

After returning to the United States [from the Dominican Republic], I started participating in our church mission committee and was challenged to bring new focus to the issue of hunger in our world. This was my introduction to advocacy as we joined with Bread for the World (BFW), a collective Christian voice that urges Congress to end hunger at home and abroad.  

Soon I was helping to organize members from a variety of churches in California to join in this effort to address hunger.  Eventually, I became a member of the board of BFW in Washington, D.C., and had the wonderful opportunity to experience advocacy firsthand on Capitol Hill. I joined with others who represented church denominations and anti-hunger organizations across the country, attending committee hearings and meeting with members of Congress.

It was two years ago, when Women of Vision held their national conference in Washington, D.C., for the first time that I was able to engage our local chapter in the work of advocacy. I’ll never forget when we came back from the first experience of going on the Hill and visiting offices. A few of the women whom I had known for years came up to me and they said, “Bobbi, we finally get it.” It took going there, being there, and experiencing it, for them to really get the big picture.

Bobbi and other Women of Vision traveled to Azerbiajan in 2006, where they visited orphaned children with severe disabilities and learned about World Vision's worked with internally displaced refugees.This was also when I had my eyes opened about human trafficking and what our government can be doing to address this issue.  Our chapter took this issue to heart and has been writing letters, and making phone calls to our representatives and senators on the TVPRA (Trafficking Victims Protection Re-authorization Act).  In addition to this, several partners have become involved with the issues of trafficking in California and our local community. 

Why should Americans care about the upcoming elections and how can they use their votes and their voices to make a difference?

We as individuals have a voice, whether we be Republicans, Democrats, or Independents. Together we can make a difference, speaking out for the desperate circumstances in which poverty exists, providing help and opportunity far beyond the communities in which we live.  For persons living in abject poverty, politics is not their concern and we should not let our politics play a part in their struggles to simply survive.

We need to make our voices heard in Congress, advocating for fairer and more compassionate laws, urging our nation’s decision makers to change policies and conditions that allow conditions such as hunger, human trafficking and diseases like malaria to exist.  We need to continue to raise financial support for all the programs we work for to help people in need.  But at the same time, we are called  to use our gifts of citizenship; our ability to write letters, talk to our congress persons ,through which we can direct millions of dollars and affect millions of lives.  

In this election year 2012 it is most important that we let our officials know our concerns as Congress is even more focused on cutting federal spending and many programs for poor people are being targeted.  In 2011, foreign assistance absorbed nearly 20 percent of the total amount of funding cuts.  The small amount of funding for poverty focused foreign assistance did not create our deficit, and cutting it will not fix it.   We must work hard to protect and ensure that anti-poverty programs are not sacrificed to meet political needs.

What are you thoughts about women as the world celebrates International Women’s Day this month?

I have to say that I think that women hold up half the world. I want to refer to the book by Nicholas Kristof, “Half the Sky” that talks about the various plights and the challenges of women around the world. There are so many examples of women from different circumstances, and he talks about how they come through these. And, that despite all the issues that they have to face, they are seeking answers and helping us find a more just world. They are an inspiration. 

I’ve had the fortune of travelling to so many places, including to Iran where I wore a head cover and felt very safe on the street together with other Iranian women, going to the stores and so on. There’s a common humanity that we share, and I think if we look beyond all of our differences, we would find that we have more in common than what we hold differently with each other.

How you can get involved

Like Bobbi, you can learn more about the issues that are closest to your heart and then speaking out about them on behalf of the world’s poorest women, children, and their families. Change someone’s future today by visiting World Vision’s Advocate Network.

One way you can speak out for vulnerable women and children is to advocate for anti-trafficking legislation.  Learn more about our efforts to pass the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, and voice your support for this crucial legislation.

Consider donating to our Women and Girls in Crisis Fund this International Women's Day. Your gift will help protect girls and women by equipping skilled, local staff to offer training, education, counseling, small business loans, and other programs that reach women and girls as well as boys — helping to end cycles of abuse and unhealthy beliefs.