March has been a powerhouse month for organizing around women’s empowerment. People have gathered to break bread, discuss, and envision a world that is more inclusive of women and girls everywhere. International Working Women’s Day on March 8th kicked us off with a call to action: let’s continue this ongoing fight towards justice and representation.
The holiday also kicked off the 62nd Commission on the Status of Women: a two-week long chain of events at and around the United Nations that centers the voices of women around the world. I had the fortunate opportunity of speaking on a panel that zeroed in on this year’s theme: Empowering Rural Women & Girls. I spoke on the challenges of mediating gender based violence in times of political conflict and how refugee camps have become a site where impoverished women continue to face violence.
Reading testimonies of affected women was nothing short of a difficult, provocative task. While there’s plenty more to parse out here, I’m troubled by the not-so-lasting impacts of these important events. We buy our tickets, take pictures for social media, add a thoughtful caption, and then walk away. Where do we go from here?
There must be a better way to stay engaged. When we leave our actions for women’s empowerment entrenched in Women’s History Month, we are missing out on a year’s worth of necessary, transformative dialogues where new ideas are born. Dialogue, debate, and difficult discussions are where movements grow and thrive - but we need people to make it happen.
In our daily lives, we conform to rigid school and work schedules. Some of us may want to allocate our only hour of free time to catching up on a TV show or taking a warm bath. There’s no shame in that. We all need an outlet to continue surviving in this often difficult world. However, taking action doesn’t always mean participating in a march or protest. Being engaged in social justice movements means enjoying the multiplicity of activist methods: hosting a film screening at school, donating to a cause, sending supplies and materials to organizers, sharing a #hashtag, or informing yourself through news articles. Not everyone is able to march, but anyone can communicate an idea, regardless of social media presence.
We must be honest with ourselves and our level of commitment, but we must also confront ourselves with an important question: What is the world I want to see and what will it take to make it reality? There is no easy answer to this question. The answer is a lifelong exploration of understanding how to make a lasting impact on this world. So it makes sense to say that leaving our activism in the confines of a 31-day time period is severely short-sighted and unsustainable (time is a social construction after all, folks).
Let’s commit to making our world safer and more inclusive of women and girls at the margins. Let’s make sure we challenge each other to think creatively, engage thoughtfully, and take action meaningfully. There is no time left to pay lip service to women who need us every day.
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