Sunday, February 24, 2013

Vital Voices

If you’re concerned about global poverty and war, about the situation of girls and women around the world, the book Vital Voices: The Power of Women Leading Change Around the World is for you.  Vital Voices is an NGO which with partners worldwide supports the work of 12,000 women leaders in 144 countries.  It began as a government initiative in the Clinton Administration after the 1995 Beijing United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women.  The book’s author, Alyse Nelson, based here in DC, is co-founder, president, and CEO of the Vital Voices Global Partnership.  Hillary Clinton, who at the Beijing conference proclaimed that “women’s rights are human rights,” wrote the book’s foreword.

There are profiles of women whose names you have likely not heard before, but whose stories you will not forget, like Carmelita Gopez Nuqui, who for decades has fought human trafficking of Filipino women to Japan, and Panmela Castro, who uses her street art to advocate against domestic violence in Brazil. 

There are profiles of women like the three who who won the Nobel Peace Prize for their “nonviolent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace building work.” Leymah Gbowee won for her work to bring peace and democracy to Liberia, including fighting the use of rape as what she called a “toy of war.”   Sharing the prize was Tawakkul Karman, who led a revolution in Yemen against a repressive regime. The book quotes the third winner, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, whose acceptance remarks capture the spirit of this important book: “Be not afraid to denounce injustice, though you may be outnumbered.  Be not afraid to seek peace, even if your voice may be small…My sisters, my daughters, my friends---find your voices.” 

I can’t write about women around the world as forces for change without also putting in another plug for one of the most powerful books of our time, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, which is a must-read. Don’t miss the subsequent four-hour TV series Half the Sky, which debuted last year and has been rerunning locally in the DC market on PBS this month (also on DVD). 

Check out these two important global movements and find out how you can get involved:

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