Stop what you’re doing and in the name of the women in your life, commit to an action of your choice: to campaign against violence, forge for advancement, celebrate achievement, change gender bias or champion education.
Be Bold For Change is the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day. Concrete actions for change can be found here.
Keeping these themes in mind, I present to you inspirations of big and small proportion; positive and negative in nature.
Campaign against Violence :
I had the privilege of meeting Madame Gumbonzvanda in 2014 who was, up until last year, the General Secretary of the World YWCA. Madame Gumbonzvanda is an advocate for ending child, early, and forced marriage. Her inspiring speech at our Club centered on the importance of creating safe spaces for women, the potential that lies in every woman and the importance of following one’s dreams.
This year the AIWC will have the honor of meeting Marguerite Barankitse and learn about her organization Maison Shalom. Madame Barankitse is a survivor of ethnic and religious violence. According to the Maison Shalom website (here), Madame Barankitse was crossing religious and ethnic boundaries of Catholic vs. Protestant and Tutsi vs. Hutu already at a young age in Burundi. Then on a horrible day 1993 she, as a Tutsi, tried to protect and hide Hutus from a mob of Tutsis. Considered a betrayal to her people she was tied naked to a chair and forced to watch the massacre. Later as children emerged from their hiding places, Madame Barankitse decided her mission would be to combat violence. Over time, she created Maison Shalom helping over 20,000 people. Our blog will feature more about Madame Barankitse in May after she attends our Annual Spring Luncheon.
Forge for advancement: This week I listened to a great interview on the podcast Fresh Air with US Air National Guard author of the book Shoot Like a Girl (a compliment in military circles). Major Mary Jennings Hager discusses her efforts to convince the US government to allow women to serve in combat. At the time Hagar was flying a helicopter in Afghanistan where women were fighting on the ground but not receiving credit on their “record” since it wasn’t legal. The result was that women would never be considered for certain high-ranking jobs, like the Chief of Staff, because candidates for these positions must have experience leading troops in combat.
Celebrate Achievement: Late last year, the AIWC visited the United Nations for a private viewing with the artist, Ross Rossin. I became enthralled with his portrait of Maya Angelou. Now I am excited that Sports England released a fabulous video narrated by the late Dr. Maya Angelou with her silky voice reading excerpts from her poem Phenomenal Woman. The video encourages women to challenge cultural assumptions about femininity that prevent them from engaging in sports and exercise. “Phenomenal woman…. it aught to make you proud.”
Challenge Gender Bias: This week a small article popped up about Melbourne, Australia’s soon-to-be installed female figured pedestrian crosswalks in order to “reduce unconscious bias.” Apparently Germany and New Zealand already feature some female silhouettes at crosswalks. On the more serious side of gender bias, take a moment to listen to Somalian poet Sarah Gabdon. “This Poem is all Women”
Champion Education: At this point I have to mention the work of Malala Yousafzai who at seventeen received the Nobel Peace Prize. Malala dared to go to school and by defying the Taliban attack that nearly killed her, she has gone on to be a global leader in girl’s education with her Fund. Her website here describes how to take action, her objective that every girl should receive 12 years of education and the programs her organization is leading.
These are but inspirations. Now we must take action. Here in Geneva, an excellent organization the AIWC supports by throwing seasonal children’s parties and raising funds is Au Coeur des Grottes, a shelter for women and children who have left difficult and violent situations.
We are a group of international women living in Geneva, Switzerland. If you would like to join the AIWC, please visit our website at http://www.aiwcgeneva.org/