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Embracing Work That Advances Gender Equity

There is no question about it: women must be accepted as equal partners with men if we are to successfully address the shared and existential challenges of our time, from climate change to economic resilience to global health and security.

But despite how surely we know this, the data shows gender disparity is so entrenched that the World Economic Forum anticipates it will take 132 years to overcome it.

The Global Gender Gap Report surveys 146 countries and focuses on four pillars:

  • The Health and Survival gender gap has closed by 95.8 percent, according to the 2022 report, and Educational Attainment by 94.4 percent.
  • But Economic Participation and Opportunity is at 60.3 percent, and Political Empowerment stands at 22 percent.

Yes, we still have far to go.

Nevertheless, we are heartened by the hard work our partners and grantees are doing to make sure women are supported, celebrated, and especially moved by the work women do to promote one another.

Adin Mbuh, Executive Director of Kolektif Hysteria, with residents in the neighborhood of Bustaman. (Photo courtesy of Shadrock Roberts)

Handpump Repair Technicians: We Shall Overcome

Consider India’s women handpump repair technicians. Part of the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), they faced fear and hostility in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic—sometimes even from their own families.

Woman using handpump in India. (Photo courtesy of SEWA)

But they remained committed to their work to restore water service to rural communities because they knew, as one technician said, that it was their fellow women who suffered most when there was no water. Those same women also were the first to step forward to offer thanks when the handpumps were repaired.

Gathered in two locations and wearing masks, these technicians shared their stories for 90 minutes over Zoom. Then they joined their voices across locations to sing that protest gospel, “We Shall Overcome,” in Hindi. Hearing them echoing the song sung by U.S. tobacco workers led by picketer Lucille Simmons during a 1945-46 strike and by leaders of the American civil rights movement, it was impossible not to feel tears gather in admiration of their courage.

Replacing Kerosene Lanterns with Solar

Or consider Habiba Ali in Nigeria, one of the few women in the male-dominated renewable energy sector. Her older sister Rakiya was also her best friend. After Rakiya died at age 31, Ali feared that smoke from the kerosene lanterns ever-present in their lives might have been partly to blame.

This was a challenge she decided to solve.

Habiba Ali presenting solar technologies to all male community leaders. (Photo courtesy of Sosai)

She began by buying a couple of solar-powered lanterns and handing them out to roadside merchants free of charge—as long as they used them. It worked. The women preferred solar to the fumes of kerosene.

Now Ali is the managing director and CEO of Sosai Renewable Energies Company, one of the largest distributors of renewable energy in Nigeria.

Collectively, We Can Change the World

Then there is Barbara Jacques. During the early days of her pregnancy, she discovered she had a tumor four times the size of her ovary. She kept it largely a secret to avoid worrying her family.

Research showed her that beauty products might have been the cause. So, from her Florida kitchen, she began creating healthy products that would spare other women from being exposed to the same toxins she feared had impacted her.

Barbara Jacques making her natural skincare products. (Photo courtesy of Barbara Jacques)

Now her daughter Dominique plans to take over the plant-powered, organic,  and sustainable skincare company she began, to continue to create safe cosmetics “for the forgotten hues.”

Ensuring the rights of women, transgender, and non-binary peoples must be a shared goal, of course. But perhaps it must begin with women supporting women.

On International Women’s Day, and every day, we celebrate women helping one another, and remind ourselves that side-by-side, we can change the world.

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