March is Women's History Month, so there will be lots of events and celebrations celebrating women. There are so many inspiring stories of great work, often against overwhelming odds, to break down barriers to women's full participation in society, whether those barriers were created by social and cultural norms, laws or just plain criminal behavior. The people behind these heroic acts are showcased at events like the U.S. State Department's Women of Courage event, the Newsweek/Daily Beast Women of the World Summit, and lunches held by the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute.
But besides being inspired, we should all commit to taking action to support and promote all of this work. Here are my thoughts about five things each of us can do to support women this month:
1) Ask questions and understand the issues: It's important to understand as much as you can about the issues raised by these stories. We are more effective advocates and champions when we know as much as we can about the facts in a certain situation, the laws (or lack thereof) that lead to, for example, unequal access to capital and credit for women, to forced and/or child marriage or to low rates of political participation. Find groups that can help you both learn about the issues and sort through the various groups that work on issues you care about. Sign up for email alerts/notifications on the issues most important to you. This keeps you in the loop and ready to act when your cause needs you most. Again, choose alerts wisely and only those that are closest to your key areas of concern.
2) Think globally but focus on what is important to you: There are lots of problems and lots of solutions -- they range from supporting legal reform to providing social services. It's easy to want to respond to every issue and every project, but it is critical to have your own strategy. Figure out what is important you in terms of issues and also how those issues are addressed. I have two or three issues that I prioritize: advancing the role women in politics and decision making here and abroad, combating human trafficking and corporate social responsibility. When I look at an organization or cause, I think about whether it fits into my categories. Sometimes I support a project that falls outside those issues and that's fine, but I do have a focus and it helps keep my support, financial or otherwise, focused.
3) Give money: This is very basic, but again, giving should reflect your priorities. Give to groups you know, so that you have a sense of how your money is being used and make sure it reflects your priorities. If you care about fighting human trafficking, decide whether victim services or legal reform is higher on your priority list and give accordingly. Also, think about how you leverage your giving so that you can be part of working on that issue with the advocates and champions that you think make a difference.
4) Take action at home: Figure out if your government does anything to either support the work you care about or stays out of the fray. Let your members of Congress know if you support what the government is doing, or if you don't. Your voice maters and can make a difference.
5) Repeat Often! Take these actions repeatedly.
There are 10 days left in March -- what will you commit to do to support the types of change makers you care about? Let me know what you decide to do; I'd love to know.
Follow Stephenie Foster on Twitter: www.twitter.com/StephenieFoster