Women’s History Month is a celebration of women’s contributions to history, culture, and society and has been observed annually in the month of March in the United States since1987.
International Women’sDay was named in 1909 when women did not have the right to vote. A group of activists, the suffragists, fought for women’s right to vote. Bringing to light the contributions of women throughout the world allows us to understand how far we’ve come in the fight for women’s equality.
One of the many women I greatly admire is Sojourner Truth, who fought for enslaved Black women and for the right to vote. And, there is the late Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who helped women gain the freedom to even have an independent bank account.
Another woman I will never forget meeting is Rebecca Lolosoli. I’d researched her and written about her when I went to Kenya several times. And in 2013, I was able to interview this extraordinary woman in London’s Heathrow airport.
Rebecca Lolosoli is the matriarch of Umoja Village. She founded the village in 1991 to support women and girls, orphans and widows – those who were facing social and economic difficulties and had been abandoned by their families, or were fleeing domestic violence, forced marriage or female genital mutilation (FGM). They had no land, no guarantee of human rights, and no protection under the law. Often, they were victimized over and over as they lived on the streets, vulnerable to continued violence and maltreatment. Rebecca saw the need to gather these women together and work collectively to find strategies for survival.
With the help of other women, Rebecca has been able to provide a safe haven for the women in her community who have been tortured, beaten, and raped. What started in 1991 as a group of 16 raped women, denounced and outcast by their families, on a patch of sun-dried, neglected land granted to them by the Kenyan government at the behest of Rebecca, is today a unique group of 50 flourishing, happy women and girls, orphans and widows, and even a few beloved goats. Despite repeated threats and attacks from men of neighboring villages, Rebecca continues to work for women’s rights. Her goal is to curb violence against women and the negative cultural practices that are harmful to women’s health, safety and well-being.
The International Women’s Day project (internationalwomensday.com) reminds us to celebrate women’s achievement, to raise awareness against bias, and to take action for equality.