One Woman, One Call: Rebuilding from the Bottom Up—Gretchen Wallace

Gretchen Wallace

Gretchen Wallace

“I’ve always believed in inner-driven change — that decisions made with the greatest level of awareness will ensure the wisest response and most potent, effective results. I’ve now spent seven years training in the fields of personal transformation, meditation and alternative healing. Bringing my passions together, I founded Global Grassroots in 2004 to advance what I call ‘conscious social change’ among grassroots, marginalized women.” — Gretchen Wallace

Rwanda. People used to call it “a tropical Switzerland in the heart of Africa.” A stunning, landlocked country in the Central Eastern part of Africa, Rwanda was praised for its lush land and beauty. Fast forward to April 6th 1994, and the world sees Rwanda spiral downwards to a state of total destruction. Due to ethnic tensions between two groups, the Hutus and the Tutsis, about 800,000 innocent Rwandan civilians, mostly Tutsis and a few Hutus, were massacred by Hutu soldiers in one of the most concentrated genocides of all time.

During the genocide, thousands of women and girls were sexually abused due to gender-based violence within the country. Moreover, after this horrific event, it was estimated that about 70 percent of the Rwandan population was made up of women who now had to assume the male roles within their households and, slowly but surely, rebuild their whole lives from the ground up. Even today, 16 years after the Rwandan Genocide, about one third of the population in Rwanda is still lead by women who have absolutely no income or support.

Nevertheless, certain remarkable people have taken notice of the devastating conditions that are in Rwanda and have decided to help. Just talk to the people in Global Grassroots, a non-profit organization that is entirely focused on helping women from Rwanda recover from that horrific occurrence and essentially start anew. However, Global Grassroots wouldn’t have been the incredible organization that it is today without one person, CEO and founder of Global Grassroots, Gretchen Wallace.

The daughter of a Navy Admiral, Gretchen Wallace spent much of her childhood living abroad, particularly in the Philippines. It’s here that she understood the privileges that she originally had and where her future interest in social change was founded.

After a trip to South Africa back in 2004, Wallace was surprised by more than just the high HIV/AIDS rate. It was the small unionization of women (and men) uniting against rape and violence that took her by surprise. These women, no matter how small their impact, were taking strides in order to better their community. With that idea in mind, Wallace established Global Grassroots, an organization aimed at helping women rebuild, reorganize and revamp.

Since then, Global Grassroots has made enormous progress. They’ve designed local projects to combat abuse and rape and have trained change leaders in Rwanda who will work towards advancing women’s rights and well being. The organization had also funded local projects that worked to help vulnerable women and girls by providing information on domestic violence, water access and illiteracy along with rape and sexual violence.

Based on the idea that Global Grassroots “helps women help themselves,” this amazing establishment is working towards bettering the world one woman at a time.

The INSPIRE@BTHS Team then went on to ask Gretchen Wallace a few questions out of the Marcel Proust Questionnaire. We believe that this is a great way to get to know our interviewee. Here is a bit of what Wallace had to tell us.

Favorite fictional hero: I don’t read a lot of fiction, but the last book I read “Little Bee” had a character that resonated with me – the British woman who made several major sacrifices to save a stranger – I was quite inspired.

Most treasured possession:  My journals from all of my travels and personal transformation courses, which have all the wisdom and teachings from the people I have met.

When and where were you happiest: One of my happiest memories was a my husband and I took to India several years ago – it was a magical journey filled with heartache at the poverty we witnessed, but also joy, fascination and adventure as we delved deeply into another culture together.

Greatest extravagance: International travel. I just adore travel to foreign countries where I can explore and connect with another world.

Favorite journey: I think my favorite journey besides India would have to be to Thailand. I was able to go on an amazing retreat to study Buddhism, Feminism and Social Change with an organization called Allies for Peace in a rural village north of Chiang Mai, Thailand on the border with Burma. It was quite transformative.

Greatest achievement:  I think the most meaningful moment in my work was when one of three men attending our Academy for Conscious Change (which is mostly geared towards women) stood up and gave me a gift – a tiny wood carving of a warrior holding a shield and spear and called me a “hero woman” who is fighting for women and girls. I was stunned. It meant so much to have a man – one of the constituencies usually least likely to value my organization’s work – acknowledge me in that way – that was probably my greatest achievement.

Greatest influence: My spiritual teacher and Integrative Breathwork teacher, Jessica Dibb with the Inspiration Community in Owings Mills, MD. She has taught me how to access my deepest self and to live life fully from a place of authenticity, love and non-violence.

Motto: I appreciate the words spoken by one of my teachers, a Vietnam Vet who is now a practicing Buddhist and alternative healer: “It is not the magnitude of the task that matters, but the intentions with which it is attempted.”

Gretchen Wallace is an incredible woman to say the very least. She is truly one of those few precious gems in the world who has dedicated her whole life to helping others, and we were so honored to have interviewed this inspiring woman. The INSPIRE@BTHS Team cannot wait to see what new and exciting projects Gretchen , as well as Global Grassroots, will be up to next.

So everyone, it is not the magnitude of the task that matters, but the intentions with which it is attempted. Be assertive. Be curious and most importantly, be inspired.

Adieu and Arrivaderci everyone! Until next time on INSPIRE@BTHS.

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