Happy 102nd International Women’s Day! ♀♡

8 Mar

Celebrate! Yay! We’ve come so far, nationally and globally. But there is much to be done. Patriarchy is the law of the land, and women and girls suffer infinitely because of it.

But there is hope. Not only are we close to achieving certain #MDGS (Millennium Development Goals), but organizations around the world are identifying obstacles, appropriating resources, and implementing solutions.

The best part of International Women’s Day is that warm, fuzzy feeling, when all your year-round hard work amongst advocates everywhere is highlighted in a mainstream way, and you see the results of such work: real change. But a lot of the coverage I have seen lately is on solidarity, momentum, consciousness-raising, and awareness. All of those are all well and good, and indeed, the foundation of change itself. But as we all know, caring is not enough. Not even if everyone cared.

Left to right: Christy Turlington-Burns, Stella Mukasa, (Director of Gender Violence and Rights at ICRW), Sarah Degnan Kambou (ICRW President), Andrea Mitchell (NBC Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent), Michael Elliott, (President of the ONE Campaign), and Ravi Verma (ICRW Asia Director)

Left to right: Christy Turlington-Burns, Stella Mukasa, (Director of Gender Violence and Rights at ICRW), Sarah Degnan Kambou (ICRW President), Andrea Mitchell (NBC Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent), Michael Elliott, (President of the ONE Campaign), and Ravi Verma (ICRW Asia Director)

Our bleeding hearts may break together, but even our collective, synchronized heartbeats won’t deafen reality: we must do more, while simultaneously keeping our voices aimed at raising the profile of the issue. We must work on the issue from all angles, simultaneously, in tandem with one another. Balancing this is hard work.

This past eve of #IWD, I had the privilege of attending the International Council of Research on Women’s Passport to Progress inaugural event, titled: Rude Awakening. ICRW has long been a policy fixture, not just in my hometown of DC, but in the world. A global research institute, they compile data into meaningful observations to inform advocacy and development work to further the status of and protect, educate, and empower women and girls worldwide.

Tonight, there were distinguished guests and speakers, a flowing open bar, gourmet treats and all of it took place in the swanky digs of the National Press Club. (Think: the setting for a Cary Grant/ Audrey Hepburn Hitchcock movie set in Washington in the 50s. Mahogany everything, chandeliers, and elevator “cars.” There are even fabulously vintage, sumptuous restaurants, including one on the 13th floor. A set perfect for Mad Men! You wouldn’t need to change a thing. Except for all the women gathering in leadership, of course.)

We spoke at length about the importance of awareness, and how that public consciousness shapes policy, and how information is vital to informing out work. But because we were assembled with an organization that deals more with the why than the how, there wasn’t as much talk about what can we do. 

Additionally, the dialogue I see on Twitter, The Huffington Post, CNN, and amongst friends and other nonprofits is similarly confounding. Yes, there are these things that are happening – but what can we do.

Perhaps I am just a typically impetuously young activist. But perhaps that is also my advantage. Of course I want to act – there is no time to lose.

This International Women’s Day, take note of how it all comes full circle:

A Light in the Darkness

Take Savita Singh, in India. At 18 years old, she is fortunate to still be unmarried, with her family supporting her plans to receive an education. Not your average girl in poverty, she dreams of being a policewoman – alas, the obstacle; she is too short! (If only that were the only obstacle every girl worried about in their dreams).

According to Ravi Verma, Asia Director for ICRW, 50-80% of young women in the world are married before age 18. With over 10 million child brides each year, Savita is lucky to have been spared. Especially considering that child marriage often leads to death in childbirth. Indeed, it is the leading cause of death for girls.

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Focused on her studies, she plans to graduate in Hindi and history. A noble choice for this young woman, who will undoubtedly raise her own children to also focus on education and stability before marriage and children, ultimately leading to the economic betterment of her community and improved health of her family.

Savita is not simply lucky. Her parents took part in a government program featuring bonds for children that grew in value until age 18, with the condition that the children stay in school and remain unmarried. Established in 1994, the program entitled Apni Beti Apna Dhan (ABAD) – ‘Our Daughter Our Wealth’ has managed to prove very valuable for Savita’s family, and ICRW is in the process of evaluating the success of the program.

The Dawn of Hope

Too often, as an activist and scholar, I have felt the battle-weariness of waging war on poverty and patriarchy. Too often, I have succumbed to the despair of hopelessness. But ever-growing from the seeds planted in the past few years (in this case, in 1994), are the branches of real change.

Recently, I saw a tweet from a participant at a conference on women and girls organized by CARE International. Someone said that a panelist mentioned the result of a domestic violence program: after attending a kind of social rehab, some kind of empowerment clinic, a young man who had beaten his wife (she got help from CARE and they both enrolled in an anti-violence program), said that he literally didn’t know he wasn’t supposed to hit. He thought it was normal, and expected of him. He had internalized a dark destiny that has been in place for longer than we like to admit; really, forever.

After the program, he un-learned behavior that was the social custom. Here, you have two families, that were touched by an international program, who are forever changed, and now the wheels are set in motion to truly alter the course of history on a grand scale. These programs are more prevalent than ever, and as the coverage of inequality grows, so does the response.

The solutions exist. It’s good to talk about them. It’s fantastic to mobilize. It’s imperative to talk to our elected officials. But the most important thing is that we never stop fighting. 

Happy International Women’s Day, my dear, cruel, crazy world. For in the not-so-distant-future, you will never be the same. And that’s the idea.

One Response to “Happy 102nd International Women’s Day! ♀♡”


  1. Yey! International Women’s Day: Here’s a List of What You Can Do | Feministify This! - March 8, 2013

    […] Read inspiring blog posts such as this one (on ¡Ay, yay, yay, Capitana!), and this one (on Pluto Press) and this one (on One Angry Queer (and […]

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