The National Women's History Project has a simple statement in their literature: "History looks different when the contributions of women are included." Last week in Atlanta, a powerful convening took place where women shaping the global outlook for women everywhere spent a day with women in Atlanta concerned about a range of civil and human rights violations from pay inequity to violence against women. This gathering, the "Womenetics Global Women's Initiative: The Ripple Effect," took the National Women's History Project sentiment a step further, and revealed, in the form of engaging, accomplished activists, that women can and are directly contributing to solutions in a range of troubled societies, including our own. Their work provides a road map and access point for anyone hand-wringing on the sidelines.
I was proud to represent the National Center for Civil and Human Rights at this event, and found the women to be diverse exemplars of the type of engagement we need to bring justice and equity to our world.
If you believe that education and public policy -- systemic broad-based change -- is the answer to the world's problems, take inspiration from Ambassador Swanee Hunt. Born into a wealthy family, Hunt has put her money where her heart is by committing to a life of philanthropy, infusing needed funds into movements where she is most passionate. Swanee has committed $7.5 million, over a 10 year period, to fund Demand Abolition. Based on the fact, if there were no buyers, the selling of human beings for sex would not exist, Demand Abolition is focused on ending sex slavery by combating the demand for illegal commercial sex in the United States. In educating individuals on rampant modern-day slavery in the United States in the buying of girls, women and boys for sex, holding law enforcement accountable for arresting the men who are the purchasers of sex, urging businesses to institute a no-tolerance policy for employees who provide sex-related entertainment perks for clients, and asking media to show the real harm to women and girls caused by traffickers and buyers, Demand Abolition is focused on catalyzing social change that reflects the dignity of all people.
When the everyday struggle for safety and basic human rights overwhelms you, draw courage from Marisela Morales Ibanez. As the Attorney General of Mexico, Ibanez faces death every day while prosecuting criminals involved in Mexico's complex, multi-national drug trade. She is on the front lines of restoring order and the rule of law to a nation on the brink. As the first woman to hold this prestigious post in Mexico, she is charged with mounting cases against organized crime and drug cartels that are using violent intimidation techniques such as kidnapping, mass murder, assassination of public figures and bribery to secure their position. She built her reputation as a state prosecutor willing to root out corruption in her own department, and for prioritizing and prosecuting cold cases in which the victims were poor women in the Mexican countryside.
If you think that a small gesture makes a big difference, and transforming individual women's lives is the most sustainable way to heal the effects of human rights violations, meet Andree Simon. She is the President & COO of Women for Women International. Her organization operates under the simple premise that women in a position to give can sponsor a woman recovering from violence, war, degradation, trafficking, and hosts of other traumas, and over the course of a year, change her life. Her organization has charted a path for human rights education, income security, healthcare and personal safety for individual women in eight of the world's most desperate regions. Named one of DC's 40 under 40 International Development Leaders, Simon is using small amounts of philanthropic dollars to create big change in parts of the world others easily ignore.
These woman stand in the face of obstacles and affirm that social change begins with women. Women bear the brunt of human rights abuses in the world, and as mothers, that suffering impedes the next generation. For every one of the women highlighted above, there are millions of others who are at work in their communities, advancing economic justice, insuring access to education, providing healthcare, fighting for gender equity and ending exploitation and violence in the home and society. As citizens of a global community, we each have a responsibility to step in and join with them. How will you use your power and resources to create a just and equitable world?
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