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.
These are truly extraordinary times. On the one hand we have extreme divisions in this country that look irreconcilable, and on the other, we are witnessing a global call to action, political involvement, and citizen activism not seen in decades. The Chinese term for “crisis” (weiji) combines “threat” and “opportunity” -- an apt description that the situation facing America represents an opportunity to demonstrate the power of citizen activism. There is a role for governments, but in a democracy, there is also an important role for citizens. Both of us have been advocates for citizen diplomacy in our life’s work and in our writing.
We both have seen first-hand how the power of citizen activism and diplomacy can change the world and make it a safer place. We have seen the power of other large scale citizen efforts - the civil rights movement, environmental movement, women’s movement, anti-war and human rights movements – which have created profound shifts in values among an aware and engaged citizenry. Inspired citizens have spoken up, taken a stand, and made a difference. Now is again time for large scale citizen action. Fear, isolation, and passivity will weaken us and our nation. Citizens have real power when we speak collectively and when we vote. As Margaret Mead aptly said, “When the citizens lead, the leaders will eventually follow.”
This global call to action is a call to take moral leadership when our own political leaders take actions that are not aligned with our nation’s core values or best interests. At such times we have the moral responsibility to speak up, questioning bad policies and immoral actions. Allowing foreign interference in our election threatens the very fabric of our Constitution. Banning immigrants from entering the U.S. and separating immigrant children from their mothers and throwing them in less than human prison-like facilities is an anathema to the very essence and identity of this country. Shrinking our national health care system that benefits millions of Americans, without a suitable alternative, hurts everyone. Denigrating women and negating survivors of sexual harassment is not acceptable. Undermining the very institutions that protect us in the areas of justice, environmental protection, education, diplomacy, security, gender equality and human rights harms the fundamental rights we live by. We, as citizens, must keep our leaders accountable, and exercise our right to question and overturn unjust policies or actions. The viability of our democracy depends on our ability to do just that at the present time.
Today we see the rise of women as activists, agents of change, leaders and community organizers. The #metoo movement, that has gone viral around the globe, has freed women to call out sexual harassment and violence when it happens. The women’s march following President Trump’s inauguration was an extraordinary demonstration of global outrage led by women all over the world demanding their rights. More women than ever in history ran for and won political office in 2018 in the U.S. Women of all parties and persuasions are coming together to courageously question the old paradigm and create a new more collaborative one that is inclusive, engaging, respectful, just and open minded. Make no doubt about it, we are a force to be reckoned with and are claiming our voices!
High school students in the U.S. have created a national movement in the wake of high school shootings to end this senseless violence. Their #enough movement has led them to the halls of our government. They are learning their rights as citizens to utilize the democratic freedoms they have, to demand legislators address gun violence and enact responsible gun regulation. Understanding more about their power as citizens, they organized youth across the country to vote in the November 2018 elections for candidates who support reasonable gun legislation. They are claiming their voices!.
The partisan cable media and much of the social media demonstrate an extreme lack of civility in our country, to our peril. Civility is when we are able to have a respectful conversation with others with whom we disagree. While it doesn’t necessarily solve disagreements, it can lead to finding common ground when we talk with, rather than at, each other. It’s wrong to target or blame groups of people, to stereotype, ridicule or demean others and to denigrate the very institutions that serve us. This is not the American way, it is not what we love about this country. What makes America great is its rich diversity that embraces multiculturalism, an open and free press, freedom of opportunity and equality for all. Walls, bans, and divisive politics don’t represent us. It’s time to return to the values inherent in the founding of this country that fostered civility, respect, equality and shared decision making. All our voices must be heard.
Citizen activism, diplomacy and civility are desperately called for at this time. We, as citizens, need to maintain our moral compass, listen to others, have the courage and ability to collectively hold true to our values, and not let our political leaders get away with un-American behavior or unjust policies or actions. We cannot leave it to the Congress, the White House, or the Supreme Court. It is our moral responsibility to be beacons of light and a collective megaphone to ensure that our core American values are sacrosanct. We have seen this in the rise of “Indivisible groups” throughout the nation, groups of citizens who are educating themselves about issues, writing their representatives, holding town hall meetings, and demanding that their representatives truly represent the will of the people they serve. These indivisible citizen groups are active and aware and growing in numbers across the nation.
As Ann Richards, the late Governor of Texas said, “I want to urge you to make waves. I want to urge you to rock the boat. I want to urge you to get off your duff. I want you to speak out at whatever cost if it comes from your heart. You’re going to build up this country and when you see what you have done, I hope that you are proud of it.” It is imperative that we elect responsible legislators who create solutions that work for all Americans and not just a small elite, and who defend sound policies that reflect our national tenets as a nation.
Let us be inspired by the words of President Abraham Lincoln: “that we here highly resolve that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom-and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.” As President Obama said, “We are the ones we are waiting for.”
Joanne Grady Huskey and Kimberly Weichel are speakers and trainers in citizen diplomacy and women’s leadership. They have worked on the forefront of building bridges between people for over 25 years.
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Joanne Grady Huskey is an author, speaker and coach. She is Co-Founder and Vice President of iLive2Lead Young Women's Leadership Summit, Co-Founder of Global Adjustments (India); and of the American International School of Chennai (India).