Tag Archives: international women’s day

Are We There Yet, Ladies?

DC People and Places 9728
These young women live in a different world than I grew up in. I raised my children in the 1960s.  In the early 1970s, I sat in a circle of woman who lived in Marin Country (just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco) and we talked about our lives as women. Most of us were married to men, and a couple of us were in partnerships with women. We were all concerned about a woman being paid a fair wage, no matter who she was or where she came from.

Some of my friends thought I was crazy to join a women’s consciousness raising group, and they looked at me with their negative piercing eyes and promised me my marriage would not last if I attended such a group. When I recently celebrated my 50th wedding anniversary, I thought of them.

As we all started to make changes in our work lives and in our domestic lives (As in YOU help with the laundry and cooking as we are both working), most of the women did get divorces. Their husbands, who had been used to being waited on, could not make such radical changes and do half of the work at home or be bothered to sit around at home and argue with their mate about how much he was paying his secretary.  Not all my sisters were as fortunate as I was to have a partner who was open minded and who also grew up with five sisters!

As we talked together in almost hushed tones, we knew we were starting to fight for our own personal lives, for the lives of our daughters and grand daughters to be born someday. Today, my three grand daughters will soon be as tall as the young women in the picture above, and I am amazed at the world they are living in.  Years ago, as our circle members began to fight for women, it was exciting and very scary.

Some of us went out and took our places in marches for women. As a working musician at the time, I went out and sang and gave talks about women’s rights in coffee houses, in women’s living rooms: anywhere people would listen to me.  And people did listen. Some said nothing would ever change.  They were wrong.

A lot has changed since then but there is still much to do to achieve equality for women. Just like little kids do on a road trip, we need to be asking: “Are we THERE yet?”  The answer, as far as I can tell, is “part way there, but NOT there yet.”   We need to keep on moving into a better life for women round the world.

3 Ways to Keep Women Moving Forward:

1. Educate Girls

There is nothing more important than fighting for good education for our growing girls.  At first this is an overwhelming thought as there are so many girls in the world.  But if we can realize that none of us can help every girl in the world and avoid using that as an excuse for doing nothing, then each one of us can discover what we CAN do. Each one of us can find a way to make a personal contribution to furthering education for girls, whether it be spending time in the afternoon to help a female family member do her homework or getting involved in local or national politics to fight for better education.

My personal contribution involves sending girls to school in India.  One of my American clients is helping to build schools and medical facilities in Ecuador.  What are you doing to help girls get a better education? Perhaps your comments will help another blog reader find a way to help.

2. Improve women’s health

It is hard for a girl to study or a woman to go find a better job if she is not healthy enough to do so. Each one of us needs to find a way to do our part to ensure healthcare is available to everyone.  My sister in law, who is a physical therapist, goes on church sponsored trips to China, where she teachers mothers with disabled or special needs children. Our whole family cannot go to China, but we can all make donations to help her go to China.

What could you  do to help improve health for women worldwide? You have the whole world to choose from. You can work for or support a food bank in your local vicinity. You can get involved in one of the many charities that feed people round the world, knowing that many of those fed will be girls. You can advocate for more nutritional meals to be served at school lunches in your hometown. You can also feed your daughters and grand daughters healthier food when they are with you. You can also take a look at your own health habits: are you eating too much or too little, drinking too much alcohol, smoking cigarettes?

3. Be a Model

It has been said in many spiritual programs and in support groups of many kinds: FOCUS ON YOURSELF.  Whether you’re a woman or a man, focus on being the best person you can be, and people will be drawn to you.  As people are drawn to you, they will be influenced by you.  You can help people by modeling the best habits.  As you take care of yourself physically, emotionally and educationally, you are setting an example.

If  you are fighting for equality for all people, you are fighting for women.  Get out there and get involved.  Find ways to help girls, mature women and elderly women. As you help, others will want to get involved.  Always keep in mind that in saving the world, each one of us has to do one thing at a time, each day at a time. But these actions we take that help and the days we help others DO add up to progress.  Are we there yet? NO, but we are on the move!

 

The power of human stories

Today is International Women’s Day. I am currently on route to New York to attend the Women in the World Summit where I am sure to hear many inspirational words from many inspiration women. I am a lover of words; they are the threads we weave our stories from. Is it any wonder we call a good tale a yarn? We each have a story that we live day by day, thread by thread. Yesterday, the internet was blanketed with a cyber tapestry depicting the atrocities that Joseph Kony has inflicted on Uganda, a country I hold near and dear to my heart. As I witnessed the world opening its sleepy eyes to take in this glaring truth, I was reminded of the many women I have met while working in Uganda and the stories they have shared with me.

I spent my first morning ever in Uganda listening to the stories of two Ugandan women from the Northern Acholi tribe. They spoke of the horrors of Joseph Kony’s long-running war and how they fled their villages to seek safety in the slums outside of Kampala, the capital city. They spoke of things lost—neighbors, children, homes, hope. I sat in silence absorbing all the horror and heartbreak that these two women poured out drop by drop, word by word. It was painful to listen to their stories, but I cannot know how painful it has been to live them and bear them inside.

Afterwards, I visited the Acholi slums. I met more women, I held their children, I visited their homes, I witnessed their world. There were women who wanted to share their stories with me but could not speak English. I tried to let my heart translate what my head could not. I sat on the dirt floor of a 2 room shack where up to 9 people sleep, eat, and live out their stories day by day, frayed thread by frayed thread. I brought food, clothes, toys and medical supplies. It would never be enough. The tapestry of their lives is so torn and tattered, and all I could offer was a small safety pin.
That experience has led me to my life’s work. I now run a non-profit that serves women in the USA and Uganda. I seek each and every day to connect, inspire, and empower women. We need to share each other’s stories, give voice to our traumas and our triumphs.

I can still feel the threads that were woven into my heart that first day in Uganda. They are a part of my tapestry now too, part of my story. I am relieved to see that the world is starting to listen. The story of Kony should be heard, but so should the stories of the countless women who have suffered because of his atrocities ~ the mothers, daughters, sisters, and wives who are carrying unspeakable grief inside.

On this International Women’s Day, I encourage all women to speak up, to share their truth What unbearable weight are you carrying inside, what untold story? This is the time to release it. We need to find our voice and let our stories be heard. Our tapestries will be stronger when they are woven together. This our day, women. Claim it.

Read Gotham Chopra’s response to KONY 2012 here.

Read Lex Stepplings response to KONY 2012 here.

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