04/19/2013 05:51 pm ET Updated Jun 17, 2013

Women at the Helm of World Change


Gloria Steinem has always said, "If you're not a feminist, you're a masochist." So when any of my friends question me as to whether the exciting surge that women are making towards protecting their gender is not humanist, I feel no compunction to quickly correct them. Feminism doesn't for a minute take anything away from being a humanist. By caring about the global state of women and children, you are obviously concerned for the men who are brothers, husbands and sons of women. But the care of the female has never been more of a priority than it is right now and it's exciting. And it is women who are leading that concern.

A few months back, the UN held the Global Conference on Gender Violence. This week, Global Fund for Women is inaugurating the Charlotte Bunch Human Rights Defender Award. Charlotte Bunch, is the Founding Director and Senior Scholar at the Center for Women's Global Leadership at Rugers University and has been an activist, author and organizer in the women's, civil and human rights movements for four decades. The award honors women who have commitment and courage in the defense of women's human rights, advance political agendas despite difficulties and threats, combat women's human rights violations through creative means and exemplify collaborative leadership through mentoring and teaching.

Monday night Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, the Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund and Dr. Musimbi Kanyoro, President and CEO of the Global Fund for Women, introduced two of the awardees, women who are on the frontline in their own countries, fighting for women's human rights, Monica Roa from Columbia and Mozn Hassan from Egypt. A third honoree, Stasa Zajovic, was unable to attend.

Monica Roa is an attorney in Spain and Columbia and creator of the Women's Link Worldwide. She has worked to advance women's rights through international rights standards and strategic litigation. Monica led the effort to decriminalize abortion in Columbia. Because of threats against her and a shooting at her Columbian office, she has been forced to work out of Spain, but shirks the moniker of 'hero.' She says that she can't be a superhero because she has no superpowers...and that is why defenders of women's rights also need defense, because they are often putting themselves in harm's way. Unlike male activists who usually have the support of family, female activists are oftimes shunned by their ow families.

Mozn Hassan is Founding Director of Nazra Institute for Feminist Studies. Nazra was one of three GFW grantee partner organizations that helped Samira Ibrahim win her case against the Egyptian military last year, a ruling that resulted in the Egyptian court handing down a ruling to ban virginity tests on women prisoners. She has been extremely involved with the women caught in the fire of the Arab Spring.

Stasa Zajovic, the third awardee, is one of the founders of Women in Black -Serbia which is part of a worldwide network of women committed to peace based in justice and opposed to war, militarism and other forms of violence.

The special speaker at the Global Fund dinner is Hilary Clinton. Abigail Disney will also speak.

This is such an empowered and empowering group of globally concerned people ...with this energy, can positive change be far away? Women are raised to honor the sanctity of the living world. Is it conceivable that horrors like the rapes in India, and bombings in Boston be a only a memory from a different mindset. The time is right now fir change, this minute, not later on... the work is immediate as are the needs. It is time to defend what is beautiful, right and loving about this planet. Perhaps this is our Global Spring.