It's a cold evening in February 2002, at a fancy dinner in New York City. In walks a drop-dead gorgeous thirtysomething. Senators, CEOs and others to whom deference does not come easily all rise to their feet. This is not just some successful businesswoman or famous actress. This is the Queen.
Queen Rania, the wife of Jordan's King Abdullah, has described the challenge to her country as trying to reconcile tradition with modernity. In Jordan, the issues she champions to bridge this gap include computer skills for schoolchildren, micro loans for women to start their own businesses, ending child abuse and trafficking and pushing for harsher penalties for honor killings. But I know her through her efforts on a larger world stage. Along with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and others, Rania is working to spread the modern gospel of childhood vaccination. As she noted that evening in 2002, more than 30 million children a year get no immunizations during their first year of life. And as many as 10% of themfrom 2 million to 3 millionwill die for the lack of just $30 worth of vaccinations.
The Vaccine Fund is an international effort to raise money to immunize children everywhere. So far, thanks at least in part to the Queen's strong endorsement and her role on the board of directors, it has raised $1.3 billion. The life-saving hepatitis-B vaccine has reached 35 million children in 40 of the least developed nations around the world.
The Queen always makes clear that she knows who wears the crown in Jordan. But she insists it is women who are the strongest force for modernization and its chief beneficiaries. Around the globe we watch her efforts with amazement and hope.
Stonesifer is the co-chair and President of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
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