This International Women’s Day, I had the privilege of sitting on the selection committee for Women Deliver’s 50 most inspiring ideas and solutions to deliver for girls and women, an annual campaign to honor the contributions of individuals and organizations dedicated to advancing female empowerment around the world.
It was a tremendous task. We received hundreds of submissions from across the globe, all inspiring accounts of innovations and ideas that are advancing women’s health, educational and economic opportunities, social and political empowerment and more. For someone whose entire career has been devoted to this field, I was newly energized by the number, quality and diversity of submissions, and grateful for the opportunity to learn about so much good work being done around the world, by organizations large and small.
I was personally pleased to see the efforts of phenomenal organizations I’ve had the pleasure to work directly with were finalists: Women for Women International’s work with male religious, military and community leaders to promote women’s safety and rights made the final 125, as did an innovative International Center for Research on Women program to protect and empower girls in Tanzania.
And today, the votes are in. The 50 most inspiring ideas and solutions to deliver for girls and women have been announced and will be promoted throughout the forthcoming year. A big congratulations goes out to the groups and individuals involved in some of the most promising global efforts to promote equality, prosperity and peace through the full inclusion and empowerment of women and girls. From eco-friendly sanitary pads in Rwanda, to “Husband Schools” in Niger, to a youth leadership program engaging former sex slaves to end domestic trafficking in the U.S., these interventions and innovations truly do inspire.
There is hence much cause for celebration on this 101st anniversary of International Women’s Day. Yet there is also cause for reflection on the work left to be done. As I reviewed the many submissions, I was particularly struck by the words of a Ghanaian woman who used the forum to write not about a particular idea or innovation that is helping women and girls, but about the areas in which she has seen little progress in her community: exploitation and violence against women. Her submission was a stark reminder of the distance we have yet to traverse before all women will enjoy security and true equality.
The words of our Ghanaian sister have awakened in me a deep appreciation for the reasons we observe International Women’s Day. My first experience living abroad was in Ghana, so the connection was all the stronger upon reading. Today I can think of no better way to honor the call to action she has put forward than by giving voice to them here. I have reprinted them below, providing slight edits for ease of reading, but the substance and the poetry of her testimony remains unchanged.
As we salute the year’s most inspiring progress in promoting the health, education, economic advancement and leadership of women and girls, I also offer the unmediated thoughts of our ally on the ground to serve as a reminder of the road ahead.
Happy International Women’s Day; may it be a day of celebration, inspiration and reflection for us all.
"Violence Against Women is the most common thing which is going on day in and day out in my country, killing of women as [they] come to stay with people. Any mistake a woman does will bring war at home, but every mistake a man does is right—why? Sexual Abuse in homes, Rape and Beating from [the] Husband—why?
I think this is The Right Time for every Woman to stand and fight for her rights, and to create a violence-free world for every Woman. Woman has stayed for too long in the Dark. Let us also share the Good Things we have in us, for the whole world.
Maternal Health is very important for every pregnant woman. Every woman stands as a Big Tree in Her family. Whether you believe it or not, The Answer is Yes. Because women are the people who suffer most in homes, I will be very glad if there would be a Law that will stop every pregnant woman from having to sell things on their heads at the road side. I think this can also help save more lives in some African countries as well. I think many organizations have to step in to train more and more African woman and girls in maternal health. I know this will enhance more understanding in many African communities, hospitals, and the World as a whole.
I would also like to share this with our African Men: Please help your wives at home by washing clothes or cooking, bathing the children, or cleaning the rooms. I don't think this is a Sin if You assist your wives in doing this; I know this will bring total balance and joy into your family.
Sex Trafficking is the leading problem in some African communities. School girls from the ages of 10 to 12 to 15 years go out with Big Men and have sex with them—why? Mothers should stop giving their girls to strangers that they don't know very well. Sometimes these people may appear to you very good from their [heads] up to [their] toes, but inside them is Black. Some of these Traffickers travel from the cities to the rural communities just to go and Tell Many Lies To Innocent Girls. In the rural communities, these are some of their Tricks:
“Wards do you know you look very beautiful?” “Let’s go to the Main City; you will get lots of Money and Cars, Clothes,” and so [on]. Some will also tell the girl’s mother, “I own a Very Big Company so I want Girls to work for Me.”
And when they bring in those girls to the city, first of all they take them out into Night Clubs. Then inside the night club these women will tell the Girls to go and dance with the men inside. From this stage just guess what will happen to those poor girls. If this trafficking lady finds that some of the men have fallen in love with any of the girls, she will walk to The Man face to face [and say:] “You cannot take her away without payment of Money to me.” Then you see that she will speak to The Poor Girl: “Do whatever this Man asks you to do, okay?” Then she will give her phone number to the Girl: “Call me if the Man wants to hurt you. Just let me know.”
All [this] is lies. Just pretending as if she really cares, and from there she will tell the poor Girl to go with The Stranger Man. Then this Man will take the Girl in to a hotel to have sex with her as many [times] as he wishes, because he has given Huge Money to this woman who travels to rural areas just to tell fake stories to poor Girls.
Those Girls will just end their lives with this Deadly HIV AIDS Infection. My little advice to women and girls is: “Don't let people waste your lives. Look sharp and Focus. Read wide and let your Eyes Open like an Eagle Bird.”