THE BLOG
04/02/2014 10:00 am ET Updated Apr 02, 2014

Creativity Fuels Future of Women's Rights

In the past month -- as we celebrated Gloria Steinem's 80th birthday, marked International Women's Day and commemorated another women's history month -- we've found ourselves wondering what will drive and inspire a new global generation of feminists and a new wave of gains in women's rights around the world? Because -- despite all the celebrations -- the quest for full equality for women and girls is far from over. In the US and around the world women are still underpaid compared to men, and under-represented in political and corporate leadership. In every country in the world women are disproportionately poor and at high risk of gender based violence.

Just last week we heard that the Iraqi parliament draft Child Marriage Bill which would, among other things, make it legal to marry off a 9 year-old girl. Before we could groan with despair, we saw another story: our partner, Baghdad Women's Association, had staged a frozen flash mob in the middle of a busy Baghdad shopping mall, to protest the proposed law. Shoppers -- unable to avoid the disruption -- stopped in their tracks, took photos, looked into the eyes of the players -- taking it all in.

We believe it is the kind of creativity shown by these courageous women in Baghdad that holds the key to creating the vibrant women's movement of the future. The creativity to imagine a world that could be different, to present a different vision of the future and to tell your story in a way that is so compelling that an audience has no choice but to pause, reflect and take action.

We see this bold and inspired creativity everywhere in the work of a new generation of women activists. Whether it is the street art of Malina Suliman and Shamsia Hassani in Afghanistan, who make women visible in public spaces where they are currently unseen, or forbidden, to the paintings of Saba Chaudhry Barnard and the video of Margaret Lazarus, whose stereotype-defying work respectively debunks myths about Muslims and about women's bodies.

The truth is that when you face inequality you need imagination. You need creativity to see equality and possibility of a different future. And that creativity is the spark that -- one it catches alight -- has the chance to ignite action and lasting social change.

Using creativity, media and art to spark action can be transformative. We've watched roomfuls of corporate executives shift completely as they experience a multi-media story smashing stereotypes about Muslim women in a way that pure facts and statistics could never have achieved. We've seen the same content propel thousands to take action and sign petitions online. And that's our aim: new audiences inspired, advocating for issues, influencing policy and raising money to support local front-line organizations doing the really hard work. One of our board members has her own name for it, Artivism. Whatever you call it, it works and is essential to our efforts to ensure dignity, justice and equality for women and girls.

If ever there was an affirmation that merging our two organizations, Global Fund for Women and International Museum of Women (IMOW), was the right and essential thing to do, this is it.

Our merger recognizes that creativity, innovation and story-telling are crucial to imagining and achieving a new future for the world's women. What we've seen in our decades of non-profit work is that organizations can get stuck in the silos of "campaigns," "philanthropy" or "policy." Together, we recognized that we must be in all of those spaces to catalyze social change. And that if the creative spark to catch the popular imagination is missing, that change may never catch light at all.

We believe that we must bring together diverse audiences of media creators, donors, activists and change-makers to build momentum and to change mindsets. Combining our strengths -- IMOW's "changing hearts and minds" through inspiring online content, digital story-telling and the arts and the Global Fund's networks, impact grantmaking and expertise- gives us a better, "joined up" approach. The bottom line -- creativity, backed up by action, expertise and investments that will make a lasting difference for the world's women.

As we embark on this new journey we are asking women and men around the world to use their creativity to imagine a new world for women's rights. Our new online project Imagining Equality: Your Voices on Women's Human Rights -- invites you to submit your creativity, and to join us in creating the actions, investments and policy changes that will make those dreams a reality for a new global generation of women.

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