Foundation leader inspired by women

By Bryan Richardson

People often use the examples of others to help guide their lives.

Bunny McBride, adjunct lecturer of anthropology at K-State, said she draws her sense of service from women in her family and around the world.

She applies that as president of the Women’s World Summit Foundation, an international women’s rights organization headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.

McBride said her grandmother was a part of the artist colony in Woodstock, N.Y., and traveled the world painting.

“She was a very strong and independent spirit, but at the same time being a family person and a very devoted spouse,” she said.

McBride said her mother trained as a concert pianist at The Juilliard School but put her concert schedule aside for her two daughters.

“When I was 14 and my sister was 16, my mother said ‘You guys won’t be around forever. I need to go get my life,’” she said. “She became one of the first computer programmers (at her company).”

McBride said her opportunity to serve by joining the foundation came after receiving a call from the group’s founder in 2002. She became a board member that fall after flying out to interview in Geneva.

“It was kind of intimidating because they are really remarkable women,” she said.

McBride said her duties included editing profiles of women for the foundation’s website, which she listed as one of her favorite things about her work.

“I just feel so inspired,” she said. “It kind of makes you think, ‘Whoa, what are you doing in your life?’ They’re really doing stuff.”

McBride has spent much of her life writing about women in her articles and books that deal with cultural survival and wildlife conservation themes.

As a journalist, McBride said she spent “a good amount of time” traveling in Africa.

She said she noticed that the women carried “the weight of life.”

“As I went from rural village to rural village, I just saw everything that was carried by women,” she said. “They carried the water. They carried the firewood. They carried the babies. It was just amazing to me.”

McBride transitioned into anthropology in Maine when she helped the Aroostook Band of Micmac Indians who had been left out of a land claim settlement in 1980.

She shared the position with her husband, Harald Prins, who currently serves as University Distinguished Professor of anthropology at K-State.

Her duties included getting the tribe’s oral history from the elders.

“Their life stories were daunting,” she said. “They faced so many difficulties on so many fronts. I was almost devastated by these stories because of the difficulty they faced.”

McBride said that set the stage for her working with women as they told of tales of poverty, a lack of education and abuse.

“Under unbelievably difficult circumstances, they kept moving forward with determination,” she said.

McBride said a lot of the women she encounters are linked by their hard work that gets no recognition and little appreciation.

Among the foundation’s activities is awarding at least ten $1,000 prizes every year for women’s creativity in rural life.

“It may not seem like very much money, but in these rural areas, it is a lot of money,” she said.

During her presidential term, which ends in 2015, McBride will serve as a spokesperson for the foundation including in its dealing with the United Nations.

She said the goal is educating the public what women are doing globally.

“You’re celebrating the good while exposing the evil,” she said. “It’s a powerful antidote.”

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