March 8, 2012

Champion women in your life and around the world

Last year I celebrated International Women's Day with an impassioned plea for more women to be chosen as international leaders for the umbrella organizations to which community service clubs like Rotary, Lions, Kiwanis and Optimist belong. In the twenty-five years since the Supreme Court ruling that enabled women to join these and other membership associations which were previously restricted to men, there has been only one woman rise to such a position. She represented the Optimist International organization.

I guess that I should say congratulations to Optimist International for its forward thinking. However, instead, I'm going to make a confession about something that still stings to this day. Last year, not long after I saluted that woman for her achievements, she chose to defriend (unfriend?) me on Facebook.

We weren't ever really friends. We knew each other through our volunteer involvement. However, at last year's international convention where I received the two top awards that Optimist International can bestow on a district leader, I chose to speak out in favor of a new program, The Childhood Wellness Campaign, over the existing Cure Childhood Cancer Campaign. To me, it's a very realistic choice that we should encourage Optimist Clubs to serve all children, not just those with cancer. I never said don't help kids with cancer. Childhood wellness speaks to all.

The defriending took place immediately after the convention and that made me realize that by speaking out, I had become a target. I still haven't figured out if I am a target of those who fear my ideas, those who don't want another woman to succeed or those who prefer the balance of power to stay the same. It is a sad statement, however, when women in leadership positions who work for the same cause can't be civil enough to be connected through a social network.

Our global, networked, engaged society has deemed March 8 to be International Women's Day. This is the day we champion other women, women's rights, and the struggles and successes of women around the world. It is not a day to whine over "why me;" but I shared my story for one reason alone: women must champion other women. It's okay if you disagree with their views and beliefs. It is not okay if you don't respect them enough to listen.

If you can't hear what someone who is "like you" says, how will you ever understand those who aren't?

I encourage you to read the "Top 5 Reasons you Should Care About International Women's Day" at
  1. Violence against women is rife worldwide
  2. Women are under-represented in politics
  3. Women are disproportionately affected by conflict
  4. Women are more likely to suffer from poverty and lack of education
  5. Double standards exist on how our societies perceive, value and judge men and women
As you read why International Women's Day matters, think about my story, as trivial as it may seem, as an example of how injustice prevails when someone turns a deaf ear to the communication they should hear. 

My plea for International Women's Day 2012 is that women and men will become better listeners. We must understand that such problems exist for women in order to fix them. 

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