A Young Woman’s Perspective on International Women’s Day

March 8,2012 is International Women’s Day (IWD) and Oxfam America is celebrating women who are making a difference in the fight against hunger and poverty. These incredible women around the world are tackling challenges, one initiative at a time. There are women who feed and provide for their children, but are facing hardships that make it nearly impossible. They’re among the one in seven people who go to bed hungry every night. And, this isn’t because there isn’t enough food to go around. It’s because there are deep imbalances in access to resources like fertile lands and water.

In recognition of IWD, I wanted to get a young woman’s perspective on praising women for their accomplishments.  I asked my16 year-old daughter about her thoughts on the characteristics of a strong woman; one who can change the world, from community leader to world leader. First, I shared with her a few statistics on women, which included:

  • Sixty-six percent of the world’s work falls on women’s shoulders, yet they earn only 10% of the world’s income.
  •  If women were given the same access to resources that men have, they could increase yields on their farms by 20-30%.
  • Hunger and poverty are about power and inequality, and women and girls face the biggest inequalities of all.

I followed up the statistics with a few questions.  Here are my daughter’s answers about IWD, the characteristics of women who change the world, and what type of women have the power and influence to help fight poverty.

1. What are the characteristics of a woman who makes a difference; whether she’s a leader in her community or a global role model?

These women are responsible and reliable, and I also think they are people who care. It’s a woman who wants to do something to make a change, whether it’s recycling water bottles or ending world hunger. She is open-minded and doesn’t let any adversity get in her way.  I believe any woman, in her own way, can be a strong woman. It’s not hard at all, because you don’t have to tackle world hunger alone or be a billionaire with a talk show. Every good mom in the world is a role model.  The way to bring this strength out is to overcome challenges; if adversity is in your face and people don’t expect much, it makes it even more of a motivation to show you can do anything!

2. When you think of women who have made a difference around the world, who is the first to come to your mind and what do you like about her?

The woman who immediately comes to mind is Eleanor Roosevelt.  I think Eleanor Roosevelt was a really influential woman. FDR couldn’t walk because of his Polio and she would go around, and take care of his affairs. She acted as his “eyes and ears” and this wasn’t typical for women to do, and it wasn’t a way for a woman to act in the 30s and 40s.  She also did a great deal to support the civil rights of African Americans. Eleanor Roosevelt’s influence was not expected at this point in history, and her strength as a woman is something I greatly admire.

3. What do you think is the best way to get younger women to participate in a movement to help women who face hunger and poverty around the world?

When you’re younger you’re still a little sheltered. So, the best way to get people interested, and to also get them involved, is to keep them informed.  Do it on a level where they think they can actually make a difference.  You have to make the cause closer to “home.”  If there are women in poverty, they have to be connected closer to where they live.  It has to be reduced to a smaller scale, otherwise they won’t feel as if they can make a difference, or it will scare them off.  Young people definitely care, it’s just sometimes these situations feel very remote, and we don’t know how to approach the situation in order to help.  Keep it local to help an issue on a larger scale.  Of course, use the Internet, which is a great resource for causes, you learn so much more.

The Oxfam America’s International Women’s campaign is trying to get people to join in the cause.  If you want to participate, here are some ways to get involved:

  • Send one of their IWD eCards to a woman you admire and think has made a difference (or several!)
  • Give a personalized IWD award to a woman  – this is really neat, IMHO, because you can just type in the name, your name & date, save as a PDF/JPG & publish to your blog.
  • Write a post asking people to do one or both of the above, especially focusing on giving women a voice, since that’s a large part of what Oxfam America does, particularly in developing countries – ideally the post would publish sometime between March 1 & March 8 (not later than that, since 3/8 is IWD). Here is an info document/sample post if it makes it any easier (click the link under “Bloggers” on that page).

I hope you will join Oxfam America’s International Women’s Day, and recognize a woman who is making a difference.