Musings on Women’s History Month

On a recent trip to Washington, DC, to – what else – advocate for women’s economic empowerment in my new role as Chair of the Association of Women’s Business Centers, I was catching up on my business magazine reading. I ran across an article about “do it yourself” animated movie-making, and I thought it sounded interesting. So, I said to myself, why not experiment with it a bit. Here’s the result, a little ditty reflecting on the meaning of Women’s History Month. We’re calling this occasional series “The Womenabler Speaks,” and you’ll be able to find this and other video contributions from Womenable on our new You Tube channel. We’d love your comments.

Just in case you can’t make out all of the words that the Womenabler avatar is speaking, our Musings on Women’s History Month poem is repeated below:

Womenable speaks makes its debut.
A lighthearted look, from our point of view,
at womenabling news you can use.

We may not always rhyme,
our raps may not be sublime,
but our tweets, posts and bon mots,
mixing poetry and prose,
will shine a light, make you think, and be right on time.

March means women’s history.
A month-long look at all that we
have done to move that proverbial ball
up the hill and over the wall.

So let’s remember the suffragettes,
and those who bear the torch today.
From Tareer Square to High Street they gather to say
Let’s make a path so we can get
A chance to launch and find our way
to peace through business and empowerment.

That’s what our foremothers saw,
when risking life and limb.
A future bright with promise,
for all our kith and kin.

So celebrate women’s history by making some of your own!

A Valentine to Gender Equality: Not for Women Only

We’ve noticed recently that conversations about gender equality issues are including more male voices – a very positive development. It’s not only the case that we women can only get so far by sharing our successes and our challenges amongst ourselves; we recognize that lasting progress can only be made by engaging with political, business and civil society leaders (still mostly men). It is also the case that gender issues are about women AND men, and addressing the social boxes that men find themselves in and dealing with gender gaps that go both ways is the best way to achieve equality of opportunity and circumstances.

Several recent developments have caught our eye in this regard. The first is an initiative of the International Center for Research on Women, called IMAGES (the International Men and Gender Equality Survey). One outcome of this effort is a new report highlighting the results of a 7-country survey (Brazil, Chile, Croatia, India, Mexico, Rwanda and South Africa) which has interviewed men and woman about gender roles in society. Some of the most interesting results include:

  • In general, men in all countries (except India), are supportive of gender equality, with 87 to 90 percent saying that “men do not lose out when women’s rights are promoted.” However, when getting down to specifics, there was tremendous variation in gender-related attitudes in the 7 countries studied, with the most inequitable attitudes seen in India and Rwanda;
  • Men with higher educational attainment and married
    men had more equitable attitudes, while unmarried men had the least equitable attitudes; and
  • According to men’s own reports of their practices, younger men, men with more education and men who saw their fathers do domestic work are more
    likely to carry out domestic duties.

Read more about this effort and download the report, “Evolving Men: Initial Results from the International Men and Gender Equality Survey,” HERE. (The report is free, but provision of name and e-mail address is required.)

ICRW has also partnered with Instituto Promundo on another fascinating report, What Men Have To Do With It: Public Policies to Promote Gender Equality. This report lays out some specific strategies for action. In addition to the usual actions that should be undertaken, including greater early education, personal safety policies (especially related to GBV) and health concerns (such as STDs), the report recommends that:

  • Connecting existing women’s rights efforts with men-focused initiatives is essential;
  • Framing gender equality as a public good with benefits for all is critically important; and
  • Ensuring that youth are included in policy debates and gender justice activism is also key to achieving change.

Finally, ICRW is co-chairing, along with the Sonke Gender Justice Network, an alliance of nongovernmental organizations that are seeking to engage men and boys in effective ways to reduce gender inequalities and promote the health and well-being of men, women and children. Visit menengage.org, the ICRW’s Engaging Men & Boys web page, and the Sonke One Man Can campaign for more information.

In explaining their efforts in this area, the ICRW states, “Like women, men have the ability to be agents of change in their own lives – as well as in those of their wives, sisters, girlfriends and daughters.” Hear, hear!

Celebrating the Life and Legacy of Madam C.J. Walker

February is Black History Month in the United States. Started way back in 1925 as Negro History Week, and set during the month containing the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, it was expanded to the entire month of February in 1976 and renamed Black History Month.

I just ran across this blogpost from Mocha Writes mentioning the legacy of Madam C.J. Walker, the first African American millionnairess. I was reminded of a wonderful presentation I attended a few years ago at the Smithsonian by her great-great-granddaughter A’Lelia Bundles, who had written a book about her life and legacy, “On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C.J. Walker.” It’s a wonderful read.

Check out this video of Bundles talking about Walker’s rise to fame and fortune:

Walker was also featured prominently in a book and traveling exhibit a few years ago, Enterprising Women: 250 Years of American Business.

So sometime this month, take a few moments to reflect upon the hard work, accomplishments and enduring legacy of this phenomenal woman.

Visit these sites to learn more: