On behalf of all of us here at the OpEd Project, we wish you a very happy 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day! On this day of celebration, take a moment to recognize how important women’s voices and opinions have been to accomplishing social change throughout history.
A glance at The Huffington Post demonstrates the power of public opinion, as numerous female voices take the opportunity to weigh in on the importance of supporting women and achieving gender equality. Here’s a selection of those voices and ideas:
Secretary of State Hilary Clinton speaks to the continuing need to provide education, health care, jobs, and credit to women around the world, arguing that closing the gender gap is not just a moral imperative but economically viable as well. Yet Clinton clearly recognizes much work remains to be done- across all populations and cultures women continue to bear the brunt of poverty, war, disease, and famine, and continue to hold very few positions of political and social leadership in the developed world.
Queen Noor of Jordan argues it is time Western conventions of Muslim women change. In light of the recent revolutions in the Arab world, those in the West should recognize the repression of the female population is not the result of Islamic principle, but contrary to it.
Eve Ensler, author of the Vagina Monologues, and founder of V-day, pays special tribute to women working on the ground in the Democratic Republic of Congo, who recently opened the City of Joy, a revolutionary leadership community for survivors of sexual violence. Ensler concludes with a poem, entitled REFUSER dedicated to “all the girls and women joining forces across the earth, to create change and revolution.”
Marian Wright Edelman, President of the Children’s Defense Fund, pays tribute to the force of women in leading social change by highlighting the story of the woman who first inspired her: Sojourner Truth. Truth, one of the first black women to ever sue in a court of law and prevail over a white man in American history, persevered through many layers of repression and injustice. For Edelman, women’s “courage to persist for justice,” throughout history makes them the true implementers of change.
Marlo Thomas speaks out on the changing face of the feminist movement. Instead of marching, women now utilize the Internet to mobilize and organize in massive numbers. Where feminism was once confined to the United States, the movement has pushed through national boundaries to all corners of the world. Thomas includes a great photo essay in her column.
Melinda Gates argues that on this day of celebration, it is crucial that we remember to look forward, paving the way for the next generation of reform and social change. For Gates, the most critical issue is improving the health of women and children. To accomplish this, Gates urges continuing ambition and dedication to act.
If you find any of these women and their ideas to be inspirational, take a moment to recognize your own ability to enact change. Don’t underestimate the power of the written, or spoken word. If you have an idea or an opinion, do not hesitate to voice it!