Agent of Change
April 3, 2006
(April 2, 2006) Admittedly in the “third act” of her life, Oscar-winning actress, humanitarian and activist Jane Fonda says that she is not afraid to die, but she is scared to reach the end of her life with regrets. >A turning point—a rebirth into her second adulthood, she says—came just before her 60th birthday. At age 59, she said, she began researching her life as though it were someone else to find out what the first two acts of her life meant.
“When you approach 60, you have to do it with great attention,” Fonda advised. “For the first time, I owned who I was,” she said. “I found my voice.”
At the same time, her marriage to Ted Turner ended (her favorite ex-husband, she adds). “I ended up alone, but I’m not alone. I’m with myself,” she explained.
In 1995, Fonda founded the Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention (www.gcapp.org) to reduce the high rates of adolescent pregnancy in Georgia through community, youth and family development, sustainable economic development and legislative advocacy.
“Women and girls are agents of change,” she said. “Girls can be feisty, strong, whole and authentic. In adolescence, things change. The voice goes underground.”
The reason for this was due to her “epiphany” in 1994, the year she was named a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Population Fund. At that time she attended a conference in Cairo, Egypt, and learned of a group of Coptic Christians who collect garbage day and night using mule-drawn carts. The garbage is taken to area where they live—their homes sitting in the midst of the foul waste. The young girls never attended school, worked as servants and were forced into arranged marriages when they reached puberty.
However, later Fonda learned of a project run by a nun to help these people. A clean school was built for both boys and girls. The girls learned income-producing skills and their sense of self was changed. “They were seen as worth saving,” Fonda said.
Fonda dislikes “charity” to describe what nonprofits do. “Instead of safety nets we need to provide ladders and trampolines to help people leap out of the cycle of poverty,” she emphasized.
At the Emory School of Medicine, Fonda established the Jane Fonda Center for Adolescent Reproductive Health. She also serves as a trustee and vice president of the Turner Foundation (www.turnerfoundation.org), which provides funding for projects dealing with water quality, prevention and control of toxins, climate, habitat, energy and population.
Fonda also made an appeal to foundations to provide increasingly important operating funds to nonprofits to enable them to fulfill their missions. Act three of Fonda’s life promises to be filled with change.