“How do you believe that women can save the world?”
This question was posed by Women’s eNews at the investigative news organization’s May gala, 21 Leaders for the 21st Century, recognizing champions of women’s rights.
We are honored that WomenStrong International founder Dr. Susan M. Blaustein was celebrated as one of the 21 leaders striving to realize women’s rights and empowerment worldwide.
Here’s how Dr. Blaustein answered the question posed to honorees:
I start from the premise that women always know what they need.
They know what their children, and their families, and their communities need! – because, women know how to listen to those around them; and they know what it means to care.
At WomenStrong International, our member organizations work with women and girls in cities across the globe. These women and girls all know what it means to care – and far too many of them also know what it means not to be cared for.
And believe me, from southern India to western Kenya, to northern Haiti, to southeast Washington, DC, the tens of thousands of women with whom we work all know what they and their families need, in order to thrive. They simply lack the power – in their case, the technical and financial resources, and sometimes the political clout – that can help them get there.
But when women raise their voices – to say what they need, to speak truth to power, and to keep on doing so, until they get results – like clean drinking water, a couple of streetlights, a credible government response to sexual violence in the streets of their city – these results move us all a bit closer to living in a more just and caring world.
This takes a whole lot of time and sweat on women’s part – unpaid, of course, like most women’s work! And it’s often thankless work, until they succeed. But the world of power, and of so many men, is so often about racing ahead – to get a leg up, to earn that last dollar, to beat out their competitors and corner the markets for their own advantage, often losing track of those left behind.
There’s little room for empathy in that race.
So without women looking out for each other – listening to each other, holding each other, and each other’s needs, very much in mind, and speaking out for what’s right – it’s not clear that a lot of guys would take the time to try to save the world, they’re too busy trying to run it! And we all know how that goes.
All of us at WomenStrong are continually impressed and humbled by the courage, strength, resilience, and empathy of the women and girls with whom our organizations work. They, like all women, and men such as those in this room, understand that one thing flows into and from another – that care for each other’s pain or hardship can be channeled into activism that can lead to greater equity, which, in turn, can lead to justice for all, and the freedom to realize their fullest potential. These women also understand that without justice, there is no such freedom, and that there can be no real justice without real caring.
That’s women’s work! We’re proud to do it, proud to support it – it’s what’s going to save our world.
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Thank you to Women’s eNews for this beautiful award and for the opportunity to reflect on the power of women’s voices in building a more caring, peaceful, and equitable world.