Take five minutes, one deep breath of gratitude and celebrate women with me today.
March 8th is International Women’ Day, a global day honoring all women — famous and obscure, rich and poor, liberated and oppressed -- worldwide.
This special day always reminds me that we are all sisters — more alike than different – all doing our best to make a difference. This year, celebrating women around the globe feels especially meaningful because March is book-ended with giving speeches to two different cultures.
On March 1st, I’ll be talking with women at the Raindrop Turkish House, an organization that promotes cross-cultural understanding and inter-faith fellowship.
On March 28th, I’ll deliver the keynote address in Kigali, Rwanda for graduates of the Peace Through Business program offered through the Institute for Economic Empowerment of Women. Thirty Rwandan women complete a course in business entrepreneurship, then study with mentors in the United States.
When I told a friend about my upcoming trip to Rwanda and my admiration for the Peace Through Business program, he asked why I cared so much about women half a world away. How could I hope to have an impact so far away?
I understand…we have plenty of problems right here at home, don’t we?
But I Do Care
I care because research shows that in Brazil, when the household income is managed by the mother, not the father, a child’s chance of survival is 20 percent greater.
I care because in Ghana, giving women the same access to fertilizer and other agricultural inputs as men increases maze yields by up to 70 percent.
I care because every social and economic index shows that countries with educated women are a strong defense against extremism. I care when women learn, their children are safer, healthier and their entire community improves.
I care because research proves that women foster peace and global security. Women make unique contributions during peace negotiations, then help bring those agreements to life, through forgiveness and reconciliation in their communities.
I care because getting to know women from other countries and other cultures deepens my compassion and inspires me to help women achieve what they might not have thought possible. They make me a better person.
Can you Remain Unmoved?
Who among us was not touched by Malala Yousafzai, the 14-year old girl from Pakistan who risked her life to speak out for the education of girls?
Who among us cannot admire the courage of the three women jointly awarded the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize “for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.”
- Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was elected President of Liberia after a long career in government that included years under house arrest and being sentenced to ten years in prison for speaking out against the ruthless warlord Charles Taylor.
- Leeymah Gbowee rose from a homeless, near starving refugee to become a powerful peace activist instrumental in ending the civil war in Liberia.
- Tawakkol Karman became the international public face of the 2011 Yemeni uprising that is part of the Arab Spring uprisings. A journalist, politician and activist, she has been called by Yemenis the “Iron Woman” and “Mother of the Revolution.”
We’re Not There Yet
While we celebrate women’s success, this day also reminds us of tragic inequities yet to be resolved.
Who among us can forget the brutal gang rape of a young woman in India, who died as a result of her injuries?
Yes, we still have work to do.
Celebrate the women in your life today, those who inspire and encourage you, those who care for you, those who challenge you. Celebrate those who need you, who depend on you, who look to you as their role model.
Celebrate women worldwide today, in a unified effort, a unified commitment to the rights of women and girls.