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On Being Bold: International Women’s Day

“It is very important to know who you are. To make decisions. To show who you are.” — Malala Yousafzai

It is often said that we live in times of lightning speed change and, with it, a rising tide of opportunity — and a rising fear. Fear can act as a reason to strike but, just as often, it gains power in silent submission.

As women, there are a thousand ways we are expected to be silent to what we experience — or even to our boldness within. A legacy of social agreements, both formal and informal, has restricted the access, voice, and possibility of millions of generations of girls and women. We learn early the fear that rises when this is challenged or ignored. We see the impact:

  • One in three women on this planet experience physical or sexual violence — most often at the mercy of an intimate partner.
  • Complications of pregnancy and childbirth is needlessly the number two killer of women of reproductive age.
  • While 80 percent of men worldwide are in the workforce, this is true of only fifty five percent of women — with a great majority expected to provide the unpaid, never-ending labor of care for other members of our societies.
  • Women represent the great majority of domestic workers, who are often the most vulnerable, the most abused, the most underpaid in the labor market.
  • War, conflict, and displacement has been recognized by the UN Security Council to disproportionately affect women — their bodies often used as currency in the transaction of power. While the Council has urged for their participation in peace talks, only nine percent of those negotiating the terms of peace and reconciliation are women.
  • A 143-country survey by UN Women found that 128 countries had restrictions on women’s freedom such as: denying or restricting access and use of property, inheritance, job choice, finance, credit, and obtaining a passport or ID; fair pay; or being able to access the justice system to combat domestic violence and sexual harassment.
  • And, while, women in legislative bodies have nearly doubled in the past two decades only 22 percent of women hold legislative power today.

While vital measures of our world, these figures are not the sum of any woman’s worth. They are not the end of our story. They are a reflection of the continued low ranking of women’s voices — and even our authority and dominion over our own well-being. As shared in a previous post: it is a fierce reminder of what we must champion and what we must change.

We can triumph over these troubling figures as so many before us and so many, across the globe, already have. On International Women’s Day, we at Asante Africa recognize that we’ve been bolstered by so many.

We know you, too, know a bold woman.

Mary Kwena, former Kenyan Program Associate for our Girl’s Advancement Program, awarded 2015 Prize for Women’s Creativity in Rural Life by the Women’s World Summit Foundation

We know each of you hold close to you someone in your life, a woman, who got us here. We know how often amazing, bold female leaders are missed or shut off from opportunity — by circumstance, assumption, and the indignity of prevailing inequities. We know how much talent and ferocity is found in girls and women in every corner of the earth. We know that being free, at peace, and creating the possibilities our world needs begins with the unrestricted inclusion of women.

“We call upon our sisters around the world to be brave –to embrace the strength within themselves and realize their full potential.” — Malala Yousafzai

While it requires the boldness of these women, it also requires the faith of our active investment. Change is sustained by boldness and faith, by an expectation that this is not the world we will leave the next generation Change will occur with the unwavering expectation of equity, inclusion, participation, and justice — threaded from our every relationship, our homes, neighborhoods, and institutions. The boldness within each woman will one day be embraced by our societies but, regardless, we will move forward, being bold.

So many women have already shown us the way.

At Asante Africa, we’re fortunate to have learned from thousands who’ve faced fear and limitation — too often, at its most deadly — and most often in the benign neglect and poverty of opportunities. We, and many of you, have invested in their leadership and boldness. We have said you are a leader and you have a right to an education. We have said, through every action and investment: we believe in you.

“Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear I rise” — Maya Angelou

We ask you: what bold woman do you know and how can you, too, be bold with her?

Additional Reads:

What is International Women’s Day?

Introducing Carolyn Sunte

Phenomenal Woman — poem by Maya Angelou

Written by Nancy Taylor

Nancy Taylor is a seasoned storyteller, leader and advocate. A first generation college student she worked to support herself from community college to graduate studies at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and spent over a decade championing dynamic reforms for education access.Today she writes, consults and engages with others to advance human rights and expression.