Women Rising: Women are the Hope of our Future
by Joanne Grady Huskey
(Centennial image by Tim Love for the Turning Point Suffrage Memorial)
As we approach the 100th anniversary of women achieving the vote in the United States, our nation and our world look to women to help us move beyond hatred, division, fear, and racism toward a more compassionate and just world that supports and includes all of us.
These times call for women to rise. We need more women at the table in diplomacy, science, education, business, law, sports, manufacturing, the military, technology, politics, and religion. We are slowly seeing this change happen, but it is not fast enough. But women are rising.
In the US, the day after Trump’s inauguration, women everywhere all over the world rose up… millions of women spontaneously took to the streets. In every city, all over the world, thousands of pink pussy hats streamed into the streets and shouted a collective NO to the mysogynistic, racist, retro platform of the new US administration. The size and strength of this global Women’s March was unprecedented in history.
Today an unprecedented number of women, six at present, are running for US President in 2020, with a new agenda that includes a woman’s rights to healthcare, childcare, equal pay, and equal responsibility; as well as a desire to correct the inequality and injustice in our nation.
Women are rising all over the place… women in Hollywood started the #metoo and #enough movement and courageously have called out sexual predators and harassment. The #metoo movement has gone viral and not only in Hollywood, but in the television, news, and corporate industries, on Capitol Hill and in the halls of government, in churches from the Catholic Church to the Southern Baptist, and in the military. Women are coming public with the pervasiveness of sexual harassment and they find strength in realizing that they are not alone, but it is a rampant and universal problem that needs to be openly addressed.
In the 2018 US election cycle, women organized, women funded candidates, women ran for office, women voted, and women won!
472 American women, who had previously not been in politics, ran for political office, realizing that they needed to gain legislative power in order to change things and stop the current destruction of our constitutional system of checks and balances. They realized that every issue is a woman’s issue and women need to be at the legislative table. Today, one third of the Democratic caucus in the US Congress are women, and they are addressing national security, economic security, and social justice. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is leading the US Congress in fighting for truth and justice in spite of a very difficult administration.
Young Congresswomen like Ilhan Omar, the first Muslim woman in Congress; Jahana Hayes, the first African American woman to represent Connecticut in the House of Representatives; Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, the 29 year old democratic community organizer from a working class Puerto Rican family; all came to DC and are making waves. Their New Green Deal is a call for action on climate change. In it, they are challenging injustice, and calling attention to economic inequity, racism and gender bias. They hope to engage young people, women, and people of color in our democracy. In 2020, women will run again, women will VOTE, and women will win!
Globally we see women rising up. In Saudi Arabia, women are finally able to drive, after courageous women took to the streets. 33% of the Afghan parliament are women. The Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Arden, courageously banned assault weapons and military style high capacity rifles after the deadly mass shooting of muslims in Christchurch. Angela Merkel was a powerhouse for almost a decade in Europe, Christina LaGuarde ably heads the International Monetary Fund, US women engineers are leading Nasa’s mission to Mars, and German Ursula vonder Leyen was elected the first female European Commission President.
Young women, too, are no longer sitting around waiting for others to lead, they are doing remarkable things.. Jaclyn Corin and Emma Gonzalez have bravely led the national March for our Lives fight for gun legislation and safety after the horrendous attack at Parklands High, Greta Thunberg, a fifteen year old Swedish girl, has single handedly inspired and led a global student strike for climate justice, Malala Youzafzai has led a worldwide fight for girls rights to a decent education, girls have invented innovative new technologies to create new bioplastics from degradable materials, started an organization to teach girls how to code, created new technologies that bring electricity to areas of the world where there is none. Most recently Megan Rapinoe, the US Women’s Soccer champion and captain of her team, led her team to victory and used her platform to speak out about equality for women and girls and justice at home.
These times call for Women to step up and lead. Women’s values are needed in this world… we need leaders who show empathy, and have the ability to collaborate with others.
However, there are still so many parts of the world where women are treated as second class citizens without the right to education, property ownership, safety, and health. Still in nine nations women are legally owned by their husbands!! I have seen first hand the inequities of women in India, who are afraid for their personal safety, or in China where women are hardly represented in the Communist party leadership, or in Kenya where girls are afraid they will get pregnant before they can get an education. This is not to mention Sudan where girls are raped, or Kyrgyztan where girls fear bride kidnapping, or Thailand where girls are taken into sex slavery, or Pakistan where girls cannot go to school or work, or in the United States where women are losing the right to control over their own bodies. In 2019, these injustices are overwhelming and shocking.
But, women, if given the inspiration and opportunity, not only give back to their own families, but often affect their workplace, their village, their community, and even their nations. Melinda Gates in her new book, The Power of Lift, reiterates the fact… that it is through empowering women that the world can change. We need that change today!
If we can inspire young women and give then the necessary skills, they will affect the future of our planet.
With two other women I founded an NGO, which we call, iLIVE2LEAD, and over the last seven years we worked with thousands of young women on every continent and we developed an interactive curriculum to teach leadership skills to girls between the ages of 15 and 23 years old. Girls came to us from countries as diverse as Kyrgyzstan, Russia, India, South Africa, Kenya, Mexico, Nepal, Afghanistan, China, Italy, Australia, Uganda, the US, Uruguay and more. They participated in our week long iLive2Lead International Young Women Leadership Summits, which we held in Germany, Mexico, China, India, Kenya, France and the United States. We worked with governments, corporations, universities and NGOs who believed in the importance of our work and hosted our programs.
At our Summits, we have inspired thousands of young women to think of themselves not only as future leaders, but as people who can change their societies today. We asked them to come to our summits with an idea for a project they wanted to do in their home communities, which we call an iCAN project (iCommit to Act Now). During the week program we taught them how to take their ideas, develop their vision for them, and write an action plan to help make it happen. We talked about how to overcome their fears of leadership and gave them coping skills. We gave them sessions on issues affecting the world and discussed ways to address them. We gave them skills on how to be effective communicators, and trained them how to speak in public, on television or in the media. We talked about ways to use the social media to build a brand, grow a following, and gather supporters. We gave them practice in networking skills— how to meet new people, develop allies and collaborators, and how to build a team to work together to achieve their projects. We asked them all to go back to their homes and do their projects and record their success by sharing videos of what they achieved.We posted these on our website and on our Facebook page for young people all over the world to see and hopefully act on.
he work has been incredibly rewarding for us, because these young women have achieved some remarkable things, such as leading a peace movement in Kenya to prevent tribal rivalry, producing a film about what happened in Tahrir Square, opening libraries in poor villages in India, leading an environmental awareness campaign in Nepal, training young women in job skills in South Africa, building a shelter for girls who have been sex trafficked in the Philippines, and many other impactful projects.
They are our future leaders.
This year I co-authored a book called iCAN: A Young Woman’s Guide to Taking the Lead with my colleague Holly Westcott. We hope it will ignite young women to take the lead in making this a better world.
We all are dying for leadership that acts with integrity and from an ethical base.
If you know of a young woman— inspire her to lead, to act, to contribute to a just and caring society. The world desperately needs her!
With your help women will rise and make significant contributions in every field. 100 years after women got the vote in the US, we now need them to lead.