A Day to Celebrate & Help
Today is officially recognized (yes, by even the U.S.) as International Women's Day. Dating back to 1908 when 15,000 women marched through NYC fighting for shorter work hours, better pay and voting rights March 8th has evolved to include activism, celebration and a chance to honor and respect women around the world for the struggles they endure and ultimately conquer.
In several countries (Armenia, Russia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bulgaria, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Macedonia, Moldova, Mongolia, Tajikistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Vietnam) IWD has become an official holiday, much like Mother's Day, where women are given flowers or small gifts in a show of appreciation by their children, husbands, boyfriends, etc.
Events are planned all around the world including rallies, fundraisers, lunches, lecture and discussion groups, all demanding better pay, more opportunities, health care, a safe place to raise a family, etc. - not unlike the women marchers from 1908; so while much progress has been made in the last 100 years there is still so much more that needs to be done.
While I will be going about my daily routine today I am going to take a minute to make some kind of donation in honor of all the beautiful women in my life. I am one of the lucky ones. I have a wonderful, safe home in which to care for my family; I have good health insurance to assist us when we are ill; My husband and I are both employed with jobs that do not cause us physical harm or require us to work obscene hours and provide us with enough money to afford food, shelter, clothing, toys for the kids, etc.; While our country is involved in a war the war is being fought in Iraq and I do not fear for the safety of myself or my children when I step outside my front door.
But the women of Iraq do have that fear; the women of Darfur are still struggling daily to protect themselves and their families from the genocide being perpetrated in Sudan; Mothers in Africa are dying by the thousands from the AIDS virus and leaving behind millions of orphans who must raise themselves and their younger brothers and sisters; a mother and her daughter were in court yesterday fighting a citation regarding "illegal housing" within town limits (a town just miles from where I live) that posed a health hazard both for the family and the public - the family of four lives in a 15-passenger van - in not one, but now two separate towns. And what would be less of a public health threat? Having them sleep on a park bench or in a cardboard box in an alley when the temperatures have been dropping to the single digits for the last week? That would be more suitable and less of a health code violation?
My point is that we cannot be complacent and assume that because so many of us have computers and heat and food and clothing and all kinds of toys and gadgets that the rest of the world is just as fortunate. What is in fact true is that if you're reading this - you're in the minority when it comes to your lifestyle. Poverty, extreme poverty even, is an epidemic and we must not forget those, most of them women and children, who are struggling everyday just to survive.
So here is a list of some of my favorite organizations. Make a donation. Get involved. Find something locally. But do something. Do it in the name of your mother, your sister, your aunt, your girlfriends, your daughter and do it for all those women who don't have the opportunity to help themselves unless they are given the means. If we all do just a little bit we will create a world as of yet unimagined.
- One.org - an organization that is fighting extreme poverty through legislation and direct action.
- Women for Women International - my favorite right now where you sponsor a woman who goes through a year long program to help her get herself and her family back on their feet after suffering the atrocities of war. (My sister in Kosovo is about to graduate from the program which she has said has helped her immensely since her husband is still unable to find work. She lives in a house with just two rooms, but has told me through letter writing that I am welcome their any time. Yeah. Take that in for a moment. And it cost me only a few dollars to help change someone's entire life.)
- Global Sistergoods - an online marketplace where fair trade items are available from around the world made by women who are paid a fair wage for their creations.
- Care.org - an international humanitarian organization working to eliminate extreme poverty with a special focus given to poor women.
- The Greater Good Network - another online marketplace where you can purchase fair trade goods with a portion of the proceeds going to charities to fight breast cancer and hunger, save the rainforests and abused animals and promote child health and literacy - you choose where you want your money to go.
That's just a small list of organizations I have had good luck with. If you don't see what you're looking for above, find your own outlet. But do something. Don't wait another day.
P.S. March is also Women's History Month so you'll be hearing about that in upcoming posts as well. It's time to rise up, ladies!!!