• Heather Mistretta

Seeing Women Through the Lens of Many Women

When I was a little girl, I dreamed of being a writer like Margaret Mitchell. I would create book after book, sometimes written with a crayon and sometimes fastened with tape. Ne’re a piece destined for the literary canon. But to the people who loved me, they were masterpieces. I was encouraged to be the best I could be, and I was often asked the question, what do you want to be when you grow up?


My world, no matter how small or imperfect it was, was full of opportunity, full of promise. My future was there for the taking. My life would later take some sharp turns I would have rather bypassed, some hills that proved to be harder to climb than others, but opportunity was still an option.


But halfway across the world or down on the other side of the equator, there were women for whom opportunity was not part of life, chasing dreams was never part of education and the future looked scary or highly unlikely. Our lenses of the world were far different, colored with different experiences, beliefs and influences.


With the cohesion that women bring, with the weight that women shoulder and with the courage and compassion that women around the world dig deep in their souls to find, women are changing the world every day.


Whether it is the women in South Africa defying the scourge of gender-based violence or the counselors in the past year who stay connected to their clients who face the threat of domestic abuse while quarantined at home.


As the chokehold of the pandemic strangled the freedoms of many, reports of all forms of violence against women and girls, particularly domestic abuse, began to rise. As the problem escalated, champions for human rights held on tighter and listened longer. They extended the web of support to reach as many as they could.


Projects like The REDress Project, which is doing its best to address violence against Native American women, ramped up their efforts as the need grew. In a population where women are three times more likely to face violence, the need has never been greater.


Like the famous writer, Gabriel Garcia Marquez said, “To oppression, we respond with life.” Throughout history trailblazers have paved the way for others to follow. They have provided opportunity for those being oppressed. They have infused life. The reverberations of those initial calls to action and the courage that has ensued ever since are seen through the lens of many women throughout the world.


Today is the day we celebrate the tremendous efforts by women and girls around the world in shaping a more equal future and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Today is the day we recognize disparities like the representation of women in national and global COVID-19 policy spaces in spite of the fact that they make up the majority of frontline workers.


But today will become tomorrow and tomorrow will become the next day. Today is just the start. Change can happen anywhere, anytime. It is time for us to see the world through the lens of many women, recognizing our differences and then embracing them. It is time for us to remove our masks that hide our insecurities and accept our flaws as part of who we are.


Eleanor Roosevelt once said, "Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home -- so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. [...] Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world."


It is in these small places that we have hope that we can be part of the growth, one word at a time. One way we are doing that in 2021 is by broadening our outreach to specifically include Native Americans as the pandemic bears down on their communities to reveal an epidemic of violence.


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