Happy International Women’s Day to BCC readers. This is, unfortunately, a rarely celebrated holiday in the U.S., but is recognized around the world as a moment to celebrate the achievements of women, appreciate the women in our own lives, and most importantly think about women’s issues and what work remains to be done to achieve safety and equality for women. Today, ten women from around the world were honored at the U.S. State Department as Women of Courage. In the case of some of these women, “courage” is an understatement.
Many of us are pro-democracy, but are our lives at stake because of it? Many of us struggle to do our jobs, but are our homes set on fire because of it? Many of us abhor domestic violence, but our families are not threatened because of our beliefs. Many of us call ourselves feminists, but we are not on the front line. These women are the front lines.
I recognize how lucky I am to live in a society that allows me to express my religious, political, and social views. I am allowed to choose whatever career I want. I am allowed to live where I want. I have opportunities. And yet, I think I can still be on the front lines, or at least on a line that proudly supports the front.
In almost every community in the U.S. there are charities that fight against domestic violence, that support educational opportunities for young women, that support victims of sexual violence. In almost every professional workplace, there is an opportunity to mentor young women and help them succeed in a business world that still relies heavily on “old boy” networks. There are chances to export opportunities to developing countries by contributing to microfinance organizations, health organizations, or educational organizations. You can write to your Congressional representatives. You can vote.
Celebrate International Women’s Day by finding a charity you believe in and supporting it, or finding a woman you believe in and supporting her. We can’t all be recognized as Women of Courage, but we can be courageous women. As President Otunbayeva pointed out today: “[I]n many languages–I can talk most certainly in the Kyrgyz and in Russian, the notion of courage has very strong masculine terms. Historically and culturally for much of the recent history, only men supposedly could be brave…[awards like these] redefine the word courage in very feminine terms.”