Monday, October 5, 2009

Knowledge is Power: theme proves true worldwide

The first day of Feminist Majority’s Women, Money and Power Summit came to a mind-blowing end at The General Assembly on Women and Power. With moderator Amy Brenneman (long-time activist, but also known for roles on “Judging Amy,” and “Private Practice,”) FM’s president Ellie Smeal, Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez and three Afghan women scholars; the room was filled with such courage and life experience. A somewhat chatty person like myself couldn’t help but leave speechless.

The point was clear as day: Women’s rights should be assumed, just like any other human right. These rights are not only essential to the individual woman’s quality of life, but also a country’s development. As Amy Brenneman expressed: the more a country utilizes 50% of its population, the better (for areas of economics, ecology, education, security, community development, etc…) Above all, the birth place of a woman should not determine her rights or safety.

FM then personalized these ideas with the case study of Afghanistan. Between Amy, Ellie and the three scholars (each who had lived in Afghanistan during the Taliban regime, but moved to the United States for the right to education,) personal stories were shared. Stories of both passive resistance, like teachers taking class attendance and then dismissing the girls, of aggressive resistance, like protesters throwing acid at young women on their way to school: No matter the circumstance, each time, the Afghan women would keep returning, keep pushing on. One Afghan scholar told us that when she was kept back from school, because of the Taliban, she begged and pleaded with people to secretly teach her. When that fell through, she trained herself through old textbooks. Each of the three expressed a yearning to go back or work towards a better Afghanistan, either through teaching, politics or medicine. The stories were harsh, but the courage and the passion these girls have is so beautiful.

Congresswoman Sanchez reiterated this message of global solidarity by showing that women’s safety is one of her great priorities, particularly human-trafficking (something that is so often brushed under the rug for later.) Sanchez also pushes other females on the hill to dive deeper on global relations, leading trips of newer employees to conflict areas like Iraq so that they can have a realistic perspective when voting.

All in all, Ellie Smeal said, we must do everything within our means: we cannot abandon our Afghan/ global sisters.

After this panel, I can’t help, but want to divide into two: one person to go to the hill to speak out, one to go the library to absorb all like a sponge.

photo credits: United Nations Photo from

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