08 March, 2011

International Women's Day

Today is International Women's Day. It is a chance to stop, think and reflect on what most of the women in the world go through to eek out an existence for their families and themselves. 

If the stats of the number of women who are trafficked (80% of those trafficked, most for sexual exploitation), suffer physical abuse in their lifetime (a 1 in 4 to 1 in 3 depending on the area and study), face the repercussions of war, instability, lack of resources... The dualities between what is acceptable for men and women is heartbreaking. Education, freedom, access to health care, basic human right are still denied to women around the world. 

Yet, most micro-finance recipients are women. Women are making strides into areas of government, business. They are breaking down barriers and refusing to be silenced in societies that do not know how to deal with them. It is proven that granting more access and choice to women betters a society. 

I heard it said once that if you want to bring true change to a community, get the women involved. It's true. In areas of conflict, rebel armies will use rape as a way of breaking down the community because they know if they can shame the woman and separate her from her husband and children the community will splinter. 

I've met really incredible women in my travels abroad. Women who are raising incredible families, finding a way to bring in income, going against ethnic and gender prejudice to do what comes naturally to them. 

We life up Mother Teresa continually, and what she did was incredible. But, I think we have a world full of women like her, making a difference in impoverished communities, bring hope and dignity back to the suffering and the dying. But they do it in the course of their everyday life. They bring good news and education on HIV/AIDS, get water for their families, recover after immense sexual and physical (emotional, spiritual) abuse, still manage to dream of something better for their kids, and make incredible sacrifices and face immense persecution to see it happen.  They raise families on their own with very little money, start businesses out of nothing. They love, are there, care for their kids, and work more hours than most people think is humanly possible. 

Survivors. I am painting with a wide brush and I can recognize that. But you want to find an honest definition of "survivor" look at most women and you will find incredible strength, endurance, resourcefulness and grace. In the U.S. and across the world women have made great strides in equality and reclaiming their value and voice. 

I think most times men keep women down out of fear. We are a mighty force and once that is unleashed no society is the same! 

Women were not granted the right to vote until the 1920's. Now, 90 years later, I would charge that it is our responsibility to first understand what our ancestors went through to give us a right most take for granted and start the process of breaking down the wall that kept most of our society a "man's world." Then we need to care and stand alongside our sisters around the world (and the U.S.) who are denied basic human rights and the ability to even dream about what so many women take for granted in the U.S. - the rights to dream, to be, to live a life without fear of rape or injury, to be treated with dignity and equality, to be educated, to raise our kids in stability and safety...