By  on March 4, 2008

In recognition of the upcoming International Women's Day, Diane von Furstenberg on Monday helped the nonprofit Vital Voices Global Partnership kick off its "Women Can" campaign, an international effort by business leaders to inspire female leaders in developing countries.

The designer said she took to the organization after getting acquainted with it a few years ago. "I believe in empowering women, I believe in supporting women. I believe all women are strong but sometimes they don't have the opportunity or the environment to let it out," she said at her Meatpacking District headquarters. "They only need encouragement, and so Vital Voices and other businesses and institutions are getting their strength."

The designer pledged to donate 10 percent of this week's sales in her freestanding stores and on her Web site, dvf.com, to Vital Voices. In addition, talks and special events will be held in her stores during this time. Paula Zahn, Christiane Amanpour and Julianne Moore are among the guests expected for Thursday's production of "Seven," a documentary theatrical piece that tells the story of seven women's lives that will be shown at the DVF store. International Women's Day is Saturday.

At Monday's event, Carly Fiorina, former chief executive officer of Hewlett-Packard Corp.; David Jones, global ceo of Euro RSCG Worldwide, and ExxonMobil's Lorie Jackson also were on hand to pledge their support to Vital Voices' co-founder and chair, Melanne Verveer.

The campaign's name, "Women Can," stems from a comment Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf made when asked why she was running for office. In addition to Sirleaf, other political pioneers and executives like former Ireland president Mary Robinson; former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services and president of University of Miami Donna Shalala; Rola Dashti, chairperson, Kuwait Economic Society, and Avon's chairman and ceo Andrea Jung furthered the cause via a video that opened Monday's program. In the video, Sirleaf described how, after being elected the first president on the continent of Africa, she has been approached by many girls with tears in their eyes who have embraced her. What they said to her was "If you can do it, maybe I can," she said.

Fiorina noted how data to be released by the United Nations this week will highlight how "If we want to solve the most pressing problems in the world, problems of disease, poverty, war and conflict, women must be engaged."Women are also inclined to take what they have learned and share that with their communities," she said.

To try to help empower youngsters and women, Vital Voices aims to have current supporters double their efforts to attract at least 100 more companies and institutions and to train 10,000 mentors within the next three years, according to Verveer. As Jones noted, there is work to be done considering that 15 percent of governments are comprised of women and less than two percent of Fortune 500 ceo's are women.

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