Speaking of Women's Rights: Creating Change Together

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Creating Change Together

Women have been taking the fall a lot lately: We’re to blame for putting ourselves in dangerous situations, dressing in a way that “invites rape”, and even adding to the deficit - or so it would seem from the way congress is slashing programs that benefit the female gender (the Program for Women, Infants and Children, for instance - which serves 9.6 million low-income women, new mothers, and infants each month). It’s safe to assume that we’ll also be blamed for unwanted pregnancies after cuts to Title X funding for family planning.

It’s easy to feel weighed down by the blatant disregard we’re seeing for women right now, in congress, in Egypt, in the blogosphere, and elsewhere. I realized the other day, while listening to Lynn Paltrow talk about fighting for reproductive justice, that what’s been keeping me afloat are the amazing women and men organizing around these issues, and doing some really incredible work to create change.

As part of Women’s History Month, the Daily Beast has compiled a list of “150 Women Who Shake The World.” You can explore the list here by nation or by name and remind yourself that the world is chock-full of compassionate, intelligent, kick-ass women who are hell bent on changing the status quo and making things better. Here is just a sampling of the amazing feats women are accomplishing across the globe (paraphrased from the Daily Beast’s descriptions).

Farida Azizi

In 2000, after five years of running a humanitarian-aid program for women under Taliban rule, threats against Farida Azizi's life forced her and her family to leave Afghanistan and seek asylum in the U.S. As a peace activist, Azizi has continued to promote the human rights of Afghan women through international advocacy. She was one of the founding members of the Cooperation for Peace and Unity, a network committed to developing peace capacities at the grassroots level.

Somaly Mam

By the age of 18, Somaly Mam had lived through horrors more extreme than most people can possibly imagine. Mam escaped to Paris and then returned to her home in Cambodia, where she pretended to be a nurse so she could hand out condoms to sex workers. She later founded Safe Havens for Victims of Trafficking and is credited with saving more than 4,000 women from sex slavery.

Hawa Abdi

In May 2010, when a hardline Somali militia tried to seize Dr. Hawa Abdi's clinic turned hospital turned refugee camp, she refused to back down, eventually getting the militia to apologize. Since 1983, Abdi’s once one-room operation has grown enormously, serving more than 90,000 people throughout the years. Not only did she create an oasis of order in a place decimated by hunger and violence, she also started literacy classes and programs targeted at ending female genital mutilation.

Then there are those whose contributions are simple, yet powerful - like one blogger’s use of rudimentary drawings to illustrate what should already be so blatantly obvious: That it is never ok to blame victims of rape.

We’ve got a long way to go. But I think it’s important to take a moment and raise a glass to these 150 women and all those who are doing everything in their power to fight for justice in our neighborhoods, in our schools and workplaces, in the United States Congress, and worldwide. In coming together, we have the power to change the world.