Women of Courage

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. 

Women of Courage Event

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.”


  1. Karen,
    This is lovely, thank you for posting it. Do you know where one might find a list of charities or causes devoted to women’s issues? I’d like a catalog to choose from…

  2. http://www.charitynavigator.org is a good place to start.

  3. Marjorie Conder says:

    The book Half the Sky has a great, and quite long, list in its appendix.

  4. This says it’s International Women’s Day, but my calendar just says Fat Tuesday. I’ve got to get a new calendar.

  5. Hooray for Roza Otunbaeva. She’s been working for years to promote democracy in Kyrgyzstan, and not only did she promote a parliamentary system in Kyrgyzstan instead of the typical Central Asian super-presidential system, she also has announced that she will voluntarily not run in the next presidential election. Kyrgyzstan has plenty of problems, but I sincerely hope that her example will help lead to peaceful and democratic power transitions in the future.

  6. It’s really pretty incredible that someone takes power to fix things and then gives it up. It shouldn’t be incredible, but it just happens so very rarely…I can’t think of another example. I thought her speech was very moving.

  7. Thanks for the link. Working in the development world, I often see the power of government or IO spending, but more recently, I’ve been paying attention to the small NGOs that focus on very limited populations, but do a world of good for them. Mmiles’ post on the Liahona Children’s Fund a few weeks ago was stunning and so illustrative of this point. When you think of how many small groups there are out there, the aggregate power of their work stacks up against the largest government budgets.

  8. I’m more of a republican democracy/democratic republic guy, myself…

    (On a serious note, we were in Russia several years ago on International Women’s Day. The women in our family got quite the treatment…)