Friends, today is International Women’s Day. I know more than a few of you forgot last year since I monitored all of your social media postings while waiting for you to call and wish me a happy International Women’s Day. I did not see nearly enough activity. Let us not be so remiss this time around. Around the world today, we celebrate and honor women’s economic, political, and social accomplishments. In Italy, women are given flowers, while in China, women get the day off work. In Cameroon, women dance in the streets. I’ve seen the U.S. do very little commemorating. I’ll take this moment to appeal to your friendly competitive patriotism and encourage even a small act of celebration and appreciation, cyber or otherwise. It will be like the Olympics of Caring About People in Other Countries.
Note that this year presents unmatched urgency. We have real live sensible plans in hand to combat hunger and poverty that will also empower women as the invaluable resources they are. Women are finally enjoying wider political and social recognition as the true agents of effective change. That is certainly a positive mark of motion but it is nowhere near the end of our work.
Women are the world’s primary food growers, providers, and heads of households. In spite of the imperative roles they play, so many still suffer from discrimination and inequality—the roots of hunger and poverty. And when food prices rise, as they have as of late, many women go without food to ensure their families have enough to eat and their children are better nourished.
Women are key agents of change in their communities as they rally to fight and prevent hunger and poverty. The nods of acknowledgment and gradual policy change enacted by the U.S. and the international community demonstrate the realization of what has always been clear to few and is gaining momentum with many: Women are the world’s greatest hope to eradicate the most despicable failures of government and society. But today, some in Congress would prefer to stifle such progress and cut U.S. programs that can help women grow more food for their families and prepare for the harshest blows of climate change.
On this International Women’s Day, we must celebrate the empowerment of such women, and emphatically resist any efforts to cut funding for their efforts. It makes absolute sense to invest in the diligence, dedication, and entrepreneurial ambition of the women charged with keeping families and communities alive. When we invest in those who are actually struggling, we support realistic, sustainable, and respectful solutions.
My own involvement with these issues has been a privilege and an education. As a “Sisters on the Planet” Ambassador for the humanitarian organization Oxfam America for more than two years I have met women from across the world who are leading and inspiring their communities and governments in response to political, social and environmental recklessness and neglect. I leapt at the chance to join because of my deepest respect and admiration for how women always have and always will keep living things alive.
“Sisters on the Planet” is a diverse group of American women gathered to exert their influence in politics, media, and beyond to raise awareness and support for women in poor countries as they face the persistent challenges of hunger and poverty, and the ever growing consequences of climate change.
Today, we are all at the precipice of change and the momentum we gather translates into actual policy shifts and resources favoring those most heavily impacted by economic disparity. Or not.
Please let us try this year to stretch our sympathy, camaraderie and compassion into action. There is actually very little that is beyond the capability of our efforts. I implore you and I thank you and I owe you some flowers.