Today is International Women’s Day, which planted its seed in 1908 when 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding better pay, shorter working hours and the right to vote. Women in the U.S. finally won the right to vote in 1920 with the Nineteenth Amendment, which prohibited state or federal sex-based restrictions on voting.
Today is a day that we pay homage to those who paved our way, celebrate the accomplishments of women, and reflect on how we can ensure the safe, successful, equal and bright future of girls around the world. And while we’ve come a long way, we’ve still got a long way to go. Sometimes this is hard to imagine while we’re pinning pretty things, posting pictures of cute, tweeting #RHOBH or lamenting that there aren’t enough drive-through coffee shops.
While there certainly is no shortage of issues facing women in the United States today (we still get $.70 on the dollar despite the Equal Pay Act and we had to fight tooth and nail to get the Violence Against Women Act reauthorized), the advancement of women in many places of the world has only just begun.
In honor of International Women’s Day, here are a few stories, images, initiatives, and voices to help you celebrate, honor and reflect on this day.
A group of McGehee girls recently traveled to Ghana to hand-deliver donations (11 scholarships) and supplies (254 books) to girl students who are part of the SISTA Scholar (Stay-In-School-Tuition-Assistance) Program at Bolgatanga Girls’ Secondary School. The SISTA Scholar program is the brain child of E. Aminata Brown, local mom and founder of BaBa Blankets, an African women’s textile collective. The profits from this social enterprise provide tuition assistance for girls and women from the rural villages of Ghana who would otherwise head to the city around age 10 to find urban street work. “I wanted the girls to have an opportunity to visit a non-westernized country, gain perspective of life in a third world country, and meet the women and girls whose education they were supporting,” said Eileen Powers, Head Mistress of Louise S. McGehee School. “Their future as women and leaders of this country within the global environment will be intrinsically linked to the success and progress of Africa, Asia and South America.”
Here are some beautiful images from their travels. You can also discover more of their Instagram images using #girlsinghana or #instaghana.
1. Quote from Du Bois, American sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, Pan-Africanist, author and editor; 2. Students at Bolgatanga Girls’ Secondary School; 3. As kayayees (head porters), girls carry anything on their head to earn money. Here, these students are carrying water.
McGehee Students learn basket weaving (an important art and trade for the people of Ghana) and learn the art of making Batik textiles.
Founded by Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In is “a global community committed to offering women the encouragement and support to lean in to their ambitions.” There are two componants to this initiative: the book and the online community. The book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead examines why women in leadership positions have flatlined, the causes and solutions. She’s gotten a ton of flack about it, too. The website, LeanIn.org, supports women through a community exchange of ideas and stories where successful women (and celebs, of course) have found themselves #leaningin to pursue opportunities or #leaningback to focus on family. The site offers free online lectures on topics ranging from communication techniques to leadership skills. “Lean In Circles” is the pièce de résistance of the site and offers a way for women to organize, share and support each other in their professional endeavors. Pretty cool and definitely worth your consideration.
Girls Who Code is a movement “aimed to educate, inspire and equip 13- to 17-year-old girls with the skills and resources to pursue opportunities in technology and engineering.” By 2018, there will be 1.4 million computer science jobs available in the U.S but as it stands today, only 14% of computer science degrees are obtained by women. Considering that women are the fastest growing online demographic creating two-thirds of the content produced on social networking sites, companies would be well served by having more women on their management and technical teams.
Girls’ Globe is a “network of bloggers from around the world working to raise awareness and educate others about global issues concerning the rights, health, and empowerment of women and girls.” If you’re under the impression that there are no more battles worth fighting for, I encourage you to read about Comfort Women: The Unknown Travesty of World War II or learn how sanitation and access to water directly impacts a girl’s education in the urban slums of India in Sanitation to Education — Inspiring Story of a Girl.
There is a lot of unfinished business on this planet in terms of human equality, dignity, education and advancement. And while it can feel very overwhelming, I know I feel this way, every little bit helps. What you do, whether you’re raising funds to educate 11 girls in Ghana, educating yourself so that you can educate others or using your voice on behalf of those without one… it matters. What you set in motion, stays in motion.
To the women of our past, present and future, I thank you and I honor you.
This post is sponsored by Louise S. McGehee School.