Meeting women from around the world is a constant source of inspiration
Meryl Streep just got an Oscar award for her spectacular performance of one the world’s most controversial female leaders. A few months back, three women were given the Nobel Peace Prize including Liberia's President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee and Yemeni women's rights activist Tawakul Karman.
Similarly, from Brazil to Barbados, Iceland to Germany more and more women are the first ever to lead their nations. As pioneers, activists, entrepreneurs – women’s leadership is on the rise.
This international women’s day however, I want to celebrate the women we rarely see or hear of. It is those women and girls who are unlikely to ever get a golden statue or public nod for their quiet acts of courage that I want to spotlight and extol.
In fact, ActionAid believes passionately that real long-lasting change comes from the bottom-up. I have seen it and I have heard it – very often through ordinary women all over the world. Having met so many of them I have unfortunately forgotten most of their names but not their achievements…
A widow in Madhya Pradesh India who marched for days, with barely a meal, to demand land ownership. The midwife in Ofla Ethiopia who has made a pact to no longer practice female genital mutilation. The Northern Brazilian woman who bucked gender stereotypes and has become a construction worker to build much needed water tanks. The Mozambican woman farmer who is now able to produce a bounty of organic fruits and vegetables through sustainable farming practices. The Vietnamese young woman who is able to negotiate condom use and demand respect in every sexual encounter. The young Danish woman whose campaigning activities have brought attention to the needs of women farmers worldwide.
The lady pensioner in Northern UK who sends us 5 pounds a month, because she wants to make a difference. The mother in Kenya who leads a school management committee to ensure girls stay in school and teachers really teach. The Bangladeshi woman who is now fully trained and prepared for the next floods. The teenage girl in western Liberia who has a simple song she teaches students: “no sex for grades”.
Acts of monumental bravery. And all significant advances for women and girls in what could be deemed the most successful revolution the world has ever witnessed.
Happy international women’s day and hats off to the unsung heroines.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has