"We cannot achieve democracy and lasting peace in the world unless women obtain the same opportunities as men to influence developments at all levels of society".
These are the words from The Norwegian Nobel Committee when they announced the Nobel Peace Prize for 2011. It was divided in three equal parts between Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee, and Tawakkul Karman. They are three women at the top of the pyramid, making a difference on a global scale, but for those of us somewhere in the middle wondering where to place our inclinations towards social action, even the web can yield little in the way of clear, actionable advice.
Far from being a GenYer venture, Stirring the Fire is the brainchild of Phil Borges, a 68-year-old social documentary photographer and filmmaker. I met Phil in Liberia on a collaborative film project for Foundation for Women in Liberia with filmmakers What Took You So Long. Although there was a generation gap there were also undeniable synergies in the wish to bring social action opportunities to more young people. Phil Borges grew up in the Haight Ashbury of the 60s, a time of revolution and youth engagement, much of which was displayed though student movements. Dissent from within the university campus may not be as revolutionary now as it was then, but Phil is quick to point out that this does not mean that student engagement has decreased: "there are more young people engaged and getting involved in volunteering overseas than ever before".
There are also more causes to rally for as communication from around the world reaches us with increasing frequency, and more media to compete with when reaching back out to speak to that world audience. Having impact in this blur of causes and news streams can be intimidating to break into. According to Phil, "just one percent of US students go abroad to study, and then 55 percent of that one percent end up in Western Europe."
This is where Stirring the Fire's resource and organization database, as well as stories shared, help filter and humanize efforts to help their central cause: women and girls. One of the first personal experience stories you can read, detailing transformative and symbiotic growth, comes from Ashley, whose experience in Tanzania prompted her to set up her own NGO, AfricAid: "I think that one of the most important things for people to know about this type of work is that there are so many opportunities for true partnerships, and meaningful relationships. I have worked so hard over the part decade to support young women in this country, but they have, in turn, done so much to support me. I have learned an infinite amount from them, so the relationship has really been a two-way street, from which we have both benefited immensely."
With the tagline "Join the global movement towards gender equality", Stirring the Fire's homepage flashes figures of the reality for women around the world:
"Every 90 seconds a woman dies during childbirth"
"Worldwide over 1,000,000 girls are trafficked each year"
"Women represent just 18% of legislators worldwide"
This call to action is followed up by links to the "intern, volunteer, study abroad and political advocacy opportunities" as well as a growing list of scholarships, including Stirring the Fire's own.
Phil Borges' 25-year career as a humanitarian documentary photographer and filmmaker imbues the site with the importance of multi-media communication. Beautiful portraiture, that has resulted in Phil being named official photographer for the United Nations Trust Fund for Violence against Women, can be seen on the site, each photograph accompanied by a contextualizing, personal note from Phil.
Right now Stirring the Fire supports 65 organizations around the world. You can see a full list of these organizations here.
Follow Philippa Young on Twitter: www.twitter.com/_philippayoung_