March 8th is International Women’s Day and is observed as a national holiday in many countries. I want to take a few minutes now to share with you some of the reasons why this DAY of observance means a lot to me – personally and in particular this year. I want to share some of my thoughts on why I feel that women and girls – through intergenerational collaboration and cooperation – are central to creating a culture that will make, create and facilitate policies and action to successfully slow down our climate emergency and build a livable future, where we and our families will not only survive but thrive.
First though, a little background that you can share with the kids in your life on International Women’s Day. The day was first “established” in the early 1900’s as an opportunity to unite women in the campaign for women’s rights to work, vote, and be trained, to hold public office and to end discrimination. For so many reasons, I feel that we must continue to mark this important day and to acknowledge and celebrate women. Each year, there is a different theme chosen and this year the campaign theme for International Women’s Day 2021 is ‘Choose To Challenge‘. “A challenged world is an alert world. And from challenge comes change. So let’s all #ChooseToChallenge.” If you are able to and interested in joining along on this hashtag, consider taking a picture of yourself or you and your children; raise your hand high to show you’re in. Share on social media using #ChooseToChallenge #IWD2021.
In my own, adopted country of the United States of America, we have broken through a seemingly, impenetrable glass ceiling. This year, we celebrate having a woman Vice President, Kamala Harris, “one beat” away from the oval office. VP Harris, as a woman of color, carries on her shoulders and through her life experiences – many, many firsts. Her long and storied career, which now places her in the White House, will help young girls and boys around the country (and the world) be able to see endless possibilities for themselves and for others. What a difference a year makes! Up until now, we have never had a woman Vice President, and we have only once had a woman from one of the two national parties, on the national ballot for President of the USA. It seems pretty clear that this woman – Hillary Rodham Clinton – although highly qualified, was never given a fair chance. Maybe now – moving forward – seeing a woman on the ballot for President and sooner than later successfully filling that office, will no longer be an anomaly but an expected and anticipated reality.
Unfortunately, in too many countries, including the United States, women continue not to be paid equally to that of their male counterparts, women are not present in equal numbers in business or politics, and in the US and around the world, women’s access to education and health care are not guaranteed nor equal.
This past year, 2020, as we all lived and we continue to live the COVID 19 crisis, women, quietly as well as forcefully have taken center stage. Our underpinning role as frontline health care workers, nurses, store clerks, mothers, caregivers, doctors and first responders is clear and visible to all. What may not be as visible or as talked about is the mental health impacts, the increase in gender violence and the broad stresses, economic inequities and added burdens that COVID 19 crisis has placed, disproportionately, on women in the roles listed above as well as in every role women occupy in society.
Today, I see and feel a light being shown more directly on women, and a real and growing women’s movement demanding change. A movement built on the difficult and mounting challenges that climate change, corporate power, ineffective government and greed are placing on us and our planet is growing and being driven in large part by young women. While this movement is not yet clearly or singularly defined, it is taking shape in many informal and formal places. The movement is and must be, by its nature, intergenerational. The foundations for this movement go back decades but it seems that currently, it is one that is being powered forcefully by youth leaders, demanding that intersectionality be central to the discussion around and about broad solutions.
In 2020 the COVID pandemic brought into the harsh light of reality the collision and intersection of racism, poverty and inequity. Moving forward, as we pull out from under the weight of our COVID crisis, we can and we must connect all of these dots to the ongoing threat multiplier of our climate crisis.
This growing women’s movement is built upon the belief in a bright future for ALL our children. With the Sustainable Development Goals to guide us, a future and now based on energy justice, access to abundant healthy food, clean air, potable water and social justice for ourselves, our families and for the world community is a reality we all can envision and strive for. Every day I feel excited, exhilarated, passionate and scared. I am part of this movement and I strongly believe that women will be the change agents we need to move us forward successfully.
As we all struggle with the weight that the COVID 19 crisis still holds over us, I feel hopeful that we are finding ways to tame it. I remind myself, and suggest to you to take time for YOU this week. When you do, also take time to think about and celebrate (loudly or quietly) the women who are important in your life; women who are related, living, friends and even women who you may admire from afar. Remind the youth in your life and explain to them that women’s rights, equity and equality are not a given in many, many countries, and in many communities and families, even ones that may be just “down the street.”
There are so many women who I could list here, who have inspired me, held me when I was sad, and encouraged me when I felt like giving up. I am celebrating them deeply and feel them in my heart and my soul. I feel so very fortunate to have amazing women who build up my active hope every day and who constantly demonstrate to me that women are making a real and positive difference – leading in the struggles – quietly and loudly – against our climate emergency at the same time as they build positive energy and solutions as they showcase opportunities for us all.
As I shared in my recent book, “How to Talk to Your Kids About Climate Change, Turning Angst into Action” we can and must show our children – girls and boys – that leading with their passions will lead to climate solutions. Our complicated world has put a myriad of opportunities in front of us all and once our eyes are opened, we can’t close them to the realities we face. We can choose to hide our heads in the sand, but that gets none of us, anywhere. Or we can use our passions to create the change we envision and we want. We and our children, are the change we are have been waiting for – so wait no longer!
A similar version of this note was written in 2020, and 2013, more than 8 years ago – things change and yet so much stays the same. I hope that 8 years from now, through the rise and power of so many amazing women, we will have become a true unstoppable force, one that moves us farther and faster; as fast as our mother earth is demanding we move.
Future leader photo: Kiana Bosman, Unsplash