On April 28, I attended The OpEd Project’s “Write to Change the World” seminar, led by Deborah Siegel and Michele Weldon in Chicago. In May, I implemented a program called Women Voices Rising–along with my colleagues Nancy Marin, Gema Rodriguez, and Gloria Coc–to serve as forum for discussion and development of female leadership in Belize and Nicaragua. I created about half of the content, pulling from my background and training in poetry, performance, and leadership development. The other half was adapted from The Op Ed Project’s “I am an expert” exercise. Overall, the workshops educated women on the importance of voice and diversity of representation in public discourse and challenged participants to explore and express their own creativity, knowledge and opinions.
Currently, the Women Voices Rising team is developing and sharing information and related opportunities with participants and other stakeholders. In Nicaragua, we are working through the volunteer coordinator office at Universidad Centroamericana to continue the work we began with emerging leaders there. In Belize Nancy Marin, who is developing a women’s resource center in her community in San Ignacio, is integrating this program into its mission. Also in Belize, we made a promising connection with Ann-Marie Williams, Executive Director of the National Women’s Commission, who attended a presentation and responded with a lot of excitement about the importance and potential of the project.
The work our team is doing in Belize and Nicaragua is a just one product of a larger program coordinated by a Chicago nonprofit called Heartland International which promotes the development of civil society in emerging democracies around the world. In partnership with Casa Alianza, Nicaragua and the Women’s Issue Network (WIN), Belize and funding from the U.S. State Department Heartland implemented Developing Grassroots Organizations for Women: An Exchange Program for Emerging Grassroots Leaders in Belize, Nicaragua and the U.S. In this program, young leaders from each country collaborate on projects to implement in Belize and Nicaragua to promote the development of women and women’s organizations. The grant period for these projects will be wrapping up this summer, however, my colleagues and I are determined to see the work of Women Voices Rising continue and grow across the Americas. We also look forward to more collaborations with our friends at OpEd
Hello Byline readers. My name is Taryn, and I’m proud to be The OpEd Project’s newest intern. At the risk of tainting your first impressions of me, I’d like to make an unseemly admission: I love to read obituaries. These condensed biographies of notable people, most of whom I’ve never heard of before, help me to take a few steps back and put my own life into perspective.
That is why I was surprised to come across a letter* to The New York Times’ obituary editor, Bill McDonald, in which he is asked why approximately one of every eight obituaries in The New York Times was about a woman.
Apparently, I’d become accustomed to seeing fewer women represented in newspapers, because I’d never even noticed the disparity.
In McDonald’s gauche response, he cited The New York Times’ “high standards” as the reason for the imbalance, explaining that to be published a person’ death “has to be news to a national and international readership.” He went on to make the case that the cohort of women and minorities dying today did not have the same opportunities to make news that white men had. That is undeniable, but it is also true that editors subjectively curate their columns. As a case in point, a quick search led me to two recently departed women who lived up to the “high standards” of The New York Times, but who were overlooked by the obituary section nonetheless (bio links below).
Newspapers of record such as The New York Times shape our personal perceptions and our culture. These omissions matter. To fulfill this responsibility obituary editors might have to broaden their scopes to catch what preceding generations missed. And so, we return to the wise words, “Whoever tells the story writes history.”
For a look at an innovative obituary, check out this New York Times video obituary of humorist Art Buchwald, which starts with “I’m Art Buchwald, and I just died.”
*“Readers Views: Equality Among the Dead,” The New York Times, September 12, 2010, pg. WK11.