International Women’s Day: 9 Creative Solutions From Women

In WW2, Great Britain rationed clothing because all the materials needed to make clothes were being diverted to the war effort. Each person received a ration book of 66 coupons, which had to last for a year. 

Every item of clothing had a coupon value attached to it. At the bottom of one of the coupon books, it read: “Brides are expected to wear their best dress or skirt suit for their wedding, unless they are in the military, in which case they are to wear their uniforms.”  

This did not sit well with many women, so a group of them got together to create wedding dress sewing circles to lift the spirits of home-front brides. I’m reading a book about this now, and it made me think of other groups of women who’d found creative solutions to the obstacles in their path for the betterment of the world.

RELATED: The World of Humanity Has Two Wings: Women and Men

Baha’is all over the globe support the primary Baha’i principle of gender equality. As Abdu’l-Baha, the son and successor of Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Baha’i Faith, wrote:

… among the teachings of Baha’u’llah is the equality of women and men. The world of humanity has two wings— one is women and the other men. Not until both wings are equally developed can the bird fly. Should one wing remain weak, flight is impossible.

Abdu’l-Baha was once asked if men were superior to women. His response in two different talks was: “In some respects woman is superior to man. She is more tender-hearted, more receptive, her intuition is more intense;” and “The woman’s intuition is more correct; she is more receptive and her intelligence is quicker.

This made me wonder where committed groups of women have used their intuition and intelligence to find creative solutions in other arenas of life — and they weren’t hard to find. I’d like to share nine of them with you, among the thousands of women-instigated and — led initiatives in the world:

1. The Arts:  The Guerrilla Girls is a group of female artists devoted to fighting sexism and racism in the art world in New York. To remain anonymous, their members wear gorilla masks. They are known for their “guerrilla” tactics, such as hanging up posters or using books, billboards, lectures, interviews, public appearances, internet interventions, and staging surprise exhibitions to expose disparities, discrimination, and corruption (such as conflicts of interest within museums). Through provocative artwork, they’ve challenged museums and galleries to represent more women and artists of color.

2. Economics: The Women’s Investment Network (WIN) is a network of female investors and entrepreneurs who support each other by investing in and promoting women-led businesses. WIN aims to address the gender funding gap in the startup world. They facilitate like-minded women coming together in comfortable and informal settings to discuss a range of topics relevant to their specific needs and interests on themes such as nutrition, divorce, and bereavement as well as financial well-being, including money management, budgeting, debt management, savings, investments, retirement planning, and inheritance planning.

3. Education: The Malala Fund actively works to create a world in which every girl receives an opportunity to complete twelve years of quality education in a safe environment — and to ensure that all girls have the necessary resources to complete their education. The Fund’s dream is a world where every girl can learn and lead, and it promotes the goal that every girl’s voice matters. They’ve creatively used storytelling, advocacy, and partnerships to raise awareness and funds for girls’ education.

4. Environment: The Green Belt Movement was formed to respond to the needs of rural Kenyan women who reported that their streams were drying up, their food supply was less secure, and they had to walk further and further to get firewood for fuel and fencing. The Movement encourages women to work together to grow seedlings and plant trees to bind the soil, store rainwater, provide food and firewood, and give them a small monetary token for their work. Their efforts have had a positive impact on both the environment and women’s economic well-being, and The Green Belt Movement has become one of the most effective and well-known grassroots organizations addressing the problem of global deforestation.  

5. Government: The most obvious example of the female influence on human governance is the Women’s Suffrage Movement, where women around the world collectively fought — and are still fighting — for their right to vote and to run for public office. For many decades, women organized grassroots rallies, protests, and lobbying efforts so that women were recognized as people and as full citizens in many countries. These suffragists were often beaten and sent to prison for their efforts — but those efforts ultimately led to significant changes in government policies and the full emancipation of women.

6. Infrastructure: The Barefoot College operates in over 2000 villages in 93 of the world’s most marginalized countries. This first-of-its-kind, women-centered global network makes vocational and educational opportunities accessible to women and girls. They believe that every woman and girl has the right to have the skills and knowledge she needs to be a catalyst for change to the benefit of herself, her family, and her entire community; and that providing these opportunities will help ensure long-term climate, economic, and social resilience for rural communities globally. The impact of their direct training and services ripples out to impact more than two million people, giving communities access to clean water, lucrative livelihoods, and safe, renewable energy.

7. Justice: The Tahirih Justice Center is a Baha’i-inspired non-profit organization that serves immigrant survivors fleeing gender-based violence. They work to dismantle the laws, practices, and attitudes that leave immigrant survivors vulnerable to abuse, provide each survivor with the resources they need to secure personal protection, and support their healing journey. They use an interdisciplinary approach to secure justice for survivors through free legal and social services, policy advocacy, and community outreach and training.

8. Family and Community Life: The global organization La Leche League provides peer support for pregnant women/parents, new moms/parents and beyond. They are parents who have breastfed their own children and now volunteer to support others to reach their goals. They provide evidence-based education and resources, and through their in-person or over-the-phone meetings, help build a community for new mothers, thereby promoting the health and well-being of both mothers and babies.

9. Science: The Women in STEM Initiatives (science, technology, engineering, and math) organization is a global grassroots organization that provides financial support to traditionally underrepresented groups with culturally appropriate advanced digital skills, like coding, leading to jobs of the future. They aim to build the world’s largest pipeline of future female engineers, close the gender gap in technology, and change the image of what a programmer looks like and does. They want to make science more open, inclusive, and accessible by fighting racism, patriarchy, and oppressive societal norms. Their programs focus on changing the face of science, and they hold institutions accountable by helping to break down the many barriers that impede scientist parents from career advancement by illuminating the reproductive justice challenges of parents.

RELATED: Women’s Equality: Baha’i Principle and Prophecy

These examples represent just a smattering of initiatives that illustrate how groups of women have not taken no for an answer. Women from every nation and culture have used creativity, determination, and collaboration to address obstacles across many diverse sectors, making a significant impact on their respective fields and communities — and by their efforts they are changing the world. This reminds me of these two quotes from early in the 20th century, again from Abdu’l-Baha:

From every standpoint the world of humanity is undergoing a re-formation. The laws of former governments and civilizations are in process of revision, scientific ideas and theories are developing and advancing to meet a new range of phenomena, invention and discovery are penetrating hitherto unknown fields revealing new wonders and hidden secrets of the material universe; industries have vastly wider scope and production; everywhere the world of mankind is in the throes of evolutionary activity indicating the passing of the old conditions and advent of the new age of re-formation. Old trees yield no fruitage; old ideas and methods are obsolete and worthless now. Old standards of ethics, moral codes and methods of living in the past will not suffice for the present age of advancement and progress.

In this Revelation of Baha’u’llah, the women go neck and neck with the men. In no movement will they be left behind. Their rights with men are equal in degree. They will enter all the administrative branches of politics. They will attain in all such a degree as will be considered the very highest station of the world of humanity and will take part in all affairs. Rest ye assured. Do ye not look upon the present conditions; in the not far distant future the world of women will become all-refulgent and all-glorious, For His Holiness Baha’u’llah Hath Willed It so! At the time of elections the right to vote is the inalienable right of women, and the entrance of women into all human departments is an irrefutable and incontrovertible question. No soul can retard or prevent it.

On this International Women’s Day, we can all recognize, respect, and admire the women at the forefront of making these essential societal changes. I am proud to be a woman who honors all the sacrifices women have made on the path of justice, and I am grateful!  

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