By Leah Schroeder
March was a month for deep reflection for a lot of us women on the question, “how far have we come?” A plethora of articles and books are available that discuss this question, and dissect the variety ways in which women are still subjugated in all societies. There are so many controversial, frustrating, and generally negative circumstances I could write or rant about.
It’s easy to become angry at how “The System” (patriarchy, misogyny, menstrual cycles, racism, you catch my drift) has been set up against marginalized groups for millennia. Sometimes, this anger is consuming.
For example, when reading about how an African American woman was (allegedly) gang-raped by men on the lacrosse team at a prestigious, majority white university (cite). Among other things, gender-based violence occurs all over the world, a lot more often than many people think.
[I] tapped into that indescribable feeling, one that fills up your whole body, mind and spirit with hope and passion, and decided to write about that
The historical and deeply systematic subjugation and de-humanization of women that still prevails in many ways today can really get you down. However, there’s also a growing sensation of power that comes with education and the knowledge gained from women in the past and present.
The movement is expanding through increased connection, empowerment and solidarity between women in the new era of feminism. I suddenly tapped into that indescribable feeling, one that fills up your whole body, mind and spirit with hope and passion, and decided to write about that instead.
Every day, I meet, hear about or interact with powerful women who inspire me to keep going, keep fighting the good fight. I learn from other women all the time. I see more girls and women all the time who are awakening to the great force of power within them and within all women, and who embrace their own and other’s intrinsic inner and outer beauty.
They demonstrate sisterhood and solidarity with all women, and strive to live and interact with others in ways necessary to bring about a better future in our world. I see it in my high school-aged sister and her friends who are promising future leaders, on social media, in my friends and my mother, young women all over San Diego State and my professors, and women I read and learn about in school and outside.
Every positive role model, movement, speech, or idea heard is enough to displace any sadness or anger, any doubt that despite the many obstacles women are able to overcome and beat them. As we speak, several states are in the process of the never-ending battle for reproductive rights where right-wing politicians and conservative organizations wish to deny women coverage and access to needed family planning and contraceptive methods, as well as abortions.
Young girls are being married off, without their opinion on the matter to men oftentimes more than double their age and are forced to undergo lives of servitude without access to education or employment.
To this day, around 60,000,000 girls are deprived of their right to a basic education due to extremist governments and religious regimes, lack of infrastructure and resources, or simply being forced to undertake other duties barring them from becoming literate and pursuing independence or passion that an education offers us.
It’s stunning and devastating to comprehend this living in modern Western society and it’s easy to take for granted some of the privileges we think of as normal. Yet as awareness of these issues increases, so do the number of voices challenging tradition and repression of women’s rights. Women are beating the odds, speaking out, and leading the way in business innovation, entrepreneurship, as well as higher education graduations rates.
There are hundreds of women (and men) I could write about and share their ideas and movements that right now are spreading like wildfire and changing the future of our world for all of us, let alone girls and women. I’ve compiled a short list of some of my current favorites who provide me great inspiration and motivation to continue fighting for my own dreams and passions.
Some of them are women’s rights/feminist activists, and some sustainable small-business owners. Some are older, and some very young. Regardless of what they are doing, their voices and ideas are being heard and spread, and their passions are unrelenting. My belief is that a woman’s voice offers something so uniquely powerful and beautifully wise and is the building blocks of peace. The war seems never-ending, so without further ado here are some women who are racking up the wins for us, Enjoy!
- Malala Yousafzai (malalafund.org): We all know her name, yet only three years ago Malala could have been another statistic in an on-going struggle between extremist groups and basic rights for people, and in this case for women in Pakistan. Today she’s a Nobel Peace laureate and perseveres in her activism for the right to educational freedom all over the world. Her story is exceptionally moving. I highly recommend watching the documentary “He Named Me Malala” right this moment if you haven’t already! Her fierce outspokenness provides a wonderful example for aspiring activists; she proves that you can destroy schools and murder people, but you cannot destroy an idea.
- The Young Women’s Studies Club (YWSC): I’ve had the opportunity to mentor at the Young Women’s Studies club at Hoover High, a highly diverse and low-income school. The program started around 20 years ago by SDSU’s women’s studies department, partnering with Hoover to create a girl-focused space of acceptance and open dialogue for students to engage in activities and topics left out of textbooks and classroom discussion. Seeing the girl’s intelligence, passion and confidence affords optimism for the growing feminist movement. I never had anything like that in high school! They understand concepts that I didn’t learn until halfway through college.
- Teeki (@teekigram; Teeki.com): These spectacular women launched their own yoga/fitness clothing line, but here’s the catch-all of their clothes are made of spun polyester originating from recycled plastic bottles!! And by subtracting the factor of creating new oil-based materials that usually go into fabrics like polyester and spandex they don’t contribute any more carbon emissions. These new methods of manufacturing and production are vital for the future of our planet and because of increasing consumer awareness, lots of businesses are taking heed and transitioning bit-by-bit to more sustainable practices such as this.
- Tribe de MAMA (@tribedeMAMA): Please follow these women on Instagram immediately; as it says in the name, this tribe of women from all over are celebrating, empowering and worshiping themselves and one another in all of their life giving, Mother Earth goddess wisdom. Truly inspiring to witness the transformation of women all over the world through the ever-expanding les of social media
- Pilots in India: In India, the very first female air force fighter pilots are set to take flight this summer. There are only three of them, but they have “opened the floodgates to prove their mettle”, demonstrating once again to the world that women are just as capable as men at anything. They even touched down in Saudi Arabia, where women still aren’t legally permitted to drive! A great juxtaposition of what still needs to change, and the boundaries women are crossing everywhere.
- Femmes Africa Solidarité (fasngo.org): A transnational feminist NGO (TFN), FAS is making huge leaps in the fight for women’s equality in the Great Lakes region of Africa, and around the world. The organization was conceived during a conference held by a Geneva-based NGO, Synergies Africa, composed of women lawyers, judges, academics and entrepreneurs, along with representatives of other NGOs and international organizations to enhance the roles of African women in preventing, managing, and resolving conflicts. Since then, FAS has been a huge factor in implanting a United Nations Security Council Resolution, 1325 on Women, Peace and Security within Africa and leading the way for nations around the world to do the same. While we have lots of movie stars, authors and other celebrities acting as the spokeswomen/men for the mainstream feminist movement, these women are doing the behind the scenes dirty work for the people who need it most!
Leah Schroeder is a fourth year undergraduate student and San Diego State University, a research assistant and aspiring feminist activist, writer, and fighter for human rights and equality everywhere. She is currently preparing research reports for the Transnational Feminist NGO Femmes Africa Solidarité supervised by an SDSU professor, and looking to join the Peace Corps following graduation.