Women are rising everywhere to fight injustice.
When India’s government passed discriminatory laws excluding Muslim residents from a path to citizenship, women began a protest to defend not only the religious minority but the legal status of women. Under the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), women would be unable to prove their own legal status as gender discrimination prevents them from having the papers necessary.
With the CAA as just one of several acts in India of what many see as a corollary to the white nationalist movement in the U.S., women stand in the way of injustice. And this isn’t just a metaphor; The next few days, hundreds to thousands of women will continue to protest in tents in the middle of a highway in Delhi, also known as “the rape capital of India.”
The women-led protest in India – an act of solidarity with India’s Muslim community – is an example of the power of women’s organizing. I call this out because in the women raising their voice and protesting in that South Delhi street – in an extremely patriarchal society-- I see the roots of International Women’s Day.
Collective power of women drives positive change
The first National Women’s Day in 1909 was born from the women’s labor movement, celebrating the 1908 protests of New York City garment workers who organized to demand better working conditions and rights. By organizing, exercising, and expanding women’s rights, they inspired even more women to speak out: Immigrant women led the Shirtwaist Strike of 1909, persisting for months until factory workers met their demands of better wages, working conditions, and shorter hours.
I see today as a reminder of the collective power of women and our role in protecting and advancing liberty. Studies show that societies are stronger when women’s rights are stronger. In terms of peace and security, the physical safety of women contributes to the overall peacefulness of societies both within the home and by preventing violence – against women and overall – as an accepted norm. It helps prevent trauma and makes it harder for extremism to find a foothold.
Women’s rights are advanced through women’s collective organizing. When we organize, we achieve progress. The collective power of women brings positive change and expands social and economic power for everyone.
Women transform their lives, communities and nations
This philosophy is a core part of Women for Women International’s signature program: We bring women from around the world together to advance the status of women. With the support of a global community, women living in conflict-affected countries join women locally in classes of 25. Together, they go through a journey where they gain confidence as they learn to transform their lives, that they have rights and power.
As they graduate, some women go on to our Change Agents program, where they gain skills in advocacy. Many women continue to invest in their connections with one another through graduate networks, where they support each other’s professional and economic growth.
Women who graduate from our program advocate with local community leaders and government officials. They run for office. They meet with national leaders, as they themselves become leaders.
We now live one hundred years after the success of the women’s suffrage movement in the U.S. securing the right to vote in 1920. One hundred years later, we are Generation Equality, and continue the quest to realize women’s rights. After all: stronger women build stronger nations.
Globally, our Generation Equality spans ages, religions, races, ethnicities, ability, and gender. Today, I ask you to join me and collectively stand with women everywhere to advance an agenda where all of us have equal rights around the world, where women are seen and heard.