This coming Tuesday – Midterm Elections 2022 in the United States – is a pivotal moment for the American democratic experiment.
By using our voices and exercising our right to vote, we can play a part in electing the leaders who care about us.
The truth is, we are living in an era of enormous change. At Women for Women International (WfWI), we serve women survivors of war around the world and we see how women’s lives can be upended in an instant. In just one year, for example, the lives of women in Afghanistan changed completely because of harsh new restrictions on their rights.
Sometimes, though, the rollback of freedoms happens more slowly with incremental and insidious dismissals of women’s power to choose for themselves. Their voices are suppressed, they are left out of peace-building discussions, they are ignored when important financial decisions are being made. Women’s rights are usually among the first to be threatened in a declining democracy.
For the last 30 years, we at WfWI have been working hard to build a world where every woman’s voice, role and contribution are visible and valued. We have stood at the United Nations to support Afghan women, just as we have done in front of the Security Council to highlight how women often fall through the gaps of humanitarian aid.
Right now, the perfect storm of the pandemic, conflict and inflation has exacerbated an already dire situation across the world. Women and children make up the majority of those displaced by war. The number of people facing acute food insecurity has doubled in just the past couple of years and women often eat last and least.
The reality is, the circumstances of our present world can feel overwhelming. Still, we at WfWI believe that one woman can change anything, but many women change everything.
At WfWI, we work in conflict-torn regions because that's exactly where women's rights are most at risk. When political structures cannot embrace differing opinions, and dissension and racism dissolve into violence, most often it is women and girls who bear the greatest burden.
That’s why we are committed, through our Stronger Women, Stronger Nations program, to offering women the tools that help empower them, heal their trauma and support their next steps toward financial independence.
In our Change Agents program, women learn to become aware of the rights they do have and how they can work together within their existing culture to transform injustices and inequalities.
Why? Because statistics show that when a society respects, educates and empowers women, the total well-being of that country increases.
For instance, many of our participants in the Democratic Republic of Congo had no idea that their own Constitution allows them the full right to own land. Today, over 145 graduates of our program, like Angelique, a young mother of nine, are proud landowners.
In Nigeria, Change Agents like Joice have found the courage to speak up against domestic and institutional violence, even in a culture where it is considered the norm.
And in Ethiopia, amid dire conflict and overwhelming famine, displaced women are using our safe houses not only as a refuge to escape violence but also as a training ground to learn new trades.
The same is true in some form in every one of the 14 countries we work in.
At WfWI, we’ve learned that a woman does not become strong just for herself. On her mind always is her family, her extended community, her nation, and with each accomplishment she adds an inch to that growing thread of fire that is bringing awareness to injustice and energetic transformation to inequality.
By investing in women, we create a better world for all of us – a world that is more equal, peaceful and prosperous.
This Tuesday, as a citizen of a free state, you have the precious power to stand up for your rights and vote for the changes you wish to see. It is more vital than ever to elect leaders who have a vested interest in a more secure and equal future for all.
Your voice matters. Your vote matters.