Wednesday, March 9, 2011

International Women's Day

I had dinner with a close friend yesterday, International Women's Day. While looking at old photos and chatting over a glass of wine, I thought about all the women who are out there fighting; for human rights, to be heard, to create change, and this very much includes the women I try to help through Kiva, a micro-lending organization which reminds us that "women perform 66% of the world's work, produce 50% of the food, but continue to earn just 10% of the income while only owning 1% of property."

As  my friend served up organic chicken and roasted vegetables, I asked her....if you could have dinner with any woman you admire, past or present, who would it be?

She thought about it and after a lively discussion came up with Eleanor Roosevelt, (she was ahead of her time) Jane Jacobs, (she made things happen) Katherine Hepburn, (a total original) Queen Victoria (she changed the world) Flora MacDonald (quietly worked on improving social programs even after retiring from politics) and Carol Burnett (she is one funny woman).

On my side, I would also have invited Eleanor Roosevelt but since she was already spoken for I moved on to Golda Meir, (a true pioneer) Audrey Hepburn, (classy, talented, aged beautifully and did good work for the UN till the end of her life) Anita Roddick, (founder of The Body Shop and one of the first to understand the connection between business and social/environmental responsibility) Zanaib Salbi (founder of Women for Women International, an organization that has, to date raised over 24 million dollars in aid to help women in war-torn countries rebuild their lives) and Dorothy Sayers, the English writer and poet who apparently said: "A woman in advancing old age is unstoppable by any earthly force." You have to love someone who can say something like that and believe it!

As an after-thought, my friend added Rachel Carson, the environmentalist and author of Silent Spring while I wondered why we had mostly chosen women who are no longer with us instead of more iconic contemporaries like Oprah. Media saturation may have something to do with that.

There are so many brilliant women out there, doing so many interesting things as they go about their often difficult lives, that our little dinner game was almost silly. But in discussing some of the women who had influenced our thinking along the way, we were paying tribute to many more in our own way. In the end, that is what we must hope for; that we are given the opportunity to do work that is meaningful, that we do it to the best of our ability, and that we inspire others as we go. But what we have to strive for, all of us, is that women everywhere are treated respectfully and given an equal chance at anything they choose to do. And not just on International Women's Day.

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