Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm once said, “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair”. Forging change and leading the way is not always easy, but it is always worth the effort as it changes the lives of many. Nowhere is this more evident than in the road paved by these brave and awe-inspiring pioneers. These women come from all around the globe. They inspire us through their shared values of integrity, diligence, courage, and persistence. They had faith in progress where others could not see it. “You do not make progress by standing on the sidelines, whimpering and complaining, you make progress by implementing ideas,” They sacrificed much, and through their vision and hard work, they became moral and political mentors to girls and boys around the world. So let us take a moment to remember their wonderful contributions to humanity and let us share their stories among our children as well.
Malala Yousafzai: She said it beautifully herself. “I stand, one girl among many. I speak not for myself, but for all girls and boys. I raise up my voice – not so that I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard. Those who have fought for their rights: Their right to live in peace. Their right to be treated with dignity. Their right to equality of opportunity. Their right to be educated. The Taliban shot me on the left side of my forehead. They shot my friends too. They thought that the bullets would silence us. But they failed. And then, out of that silence came thousands of voices. The terrorists thought that they would change our aims and stop our ambitions but nothing changed in my life except this: Weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born.”
Let us all be Malala for those women who cannot fight around the globe, from Iran, Iraq, Indonesia, Egypt, India, Malaysia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Syria, China, North Korea, Sudan, Somalia, Sierra Leone and etc. Culture is not an excuse for oppressing women. “That is just the way it is” should be changed to “that is just the way it brings dignity to women per women’s choice rather than by government choice”. How many men would like to have been born as a woman in these countries? If you know the answer, then you should be brave enough to fight for freedom of 50% of population of the world as well.
Kathrine Switzer: The Marathon Woman. She said that “the Game is on the field, Life is to participate, not to spectate.” You need to involve in what happens to you and do not be only an observer. The Only Thing Necessary for the Triumph of Evil is that Good Men or women Do Nothing. She participated even though it was forbidden for women to run in the Boston Marathon race. The year was 1967. She was attacked and pushed to get out of the race, but she PERSISTED despite the hardship. She finished the race for four hours and twenty minutes for more than 26 miles. It took 5 years after this for women to get the permission to run in the Boston Marathon. You are the instrument of change. Be the Kathrine Switzer of tomorrow no matter where you are and which country you live, be the pioneer for everyone. Do not let anyone stop you from reaching your God given potential. “I ran because she showed us we could” a woman said. YES.YOU CAN…….
Dolores Huerta: When you see people that need help, you have an obligation to help them and you should not wait for people to ask. She has worked to improve social and economic conditions for farm workers and to fight discrimination. She was instrumental in the passage of the 1975 Agricultural Labor Relations Act and later as vice president of the United Farm Workers. She was beaten by the San Francisco police in 1988 with 6 broken ribs and a ruptured spleen. But she PERSISTED for the fight against injustice and won many awards including Presidential Medal of Freedom. Let Freedom reign. Let freedom reign wherever minds know what it means to be in chains, let freedom reign wherever hearts know pain, let freedom echo through the lonely streets where prisons have no key, we can be free and we can sing, LET FREEDOM REIGN.
Shirin Ebadi: She was a judge prior to Iran revolution and demoted to secretarial position and later left the justice department and decided to defend others as a lawyer. She practiced defending the right of women, political prisoners and children for free of charge. She PERSISTED despite the challenges. She fought for women equality. Social justice and democracy was her first goal in Iran where many were persecuted with no crime. To bring the change to the world we need to change ourselves first. Everyone is responsible to fight for their right. She received many death-treat to herself and her family. She is a woman from Iran, Muslim, a mother to two daughters, who spent all of her life to human rights and tried to prove this fact that the government should not use Islam for an instrument of abuse to violate human rights as it will completely destroy the belief system and eventually cause problem for the government which tries to stay in power. Power always thinks it has a great soul, and that it’s doing God’s service, when it is violating all his laws.
Maryam Mirzakhani: She was the first woman to achieve the Field Award, which can be said to be equivalent of the Nobel prize in Mathematics. She was also a gold medalist in the international mathematical Olympiad. She was almost killed in a car accident but she survived. As she was growing up she use to see biography of famous women such as Marie Curie and Helen Keller. This instilled in her an undefined ambition to do something great with her life such as becoming a writer perhaps. Mirzakhani did poorly in her mathematics class. Her math teacher didn’t think she was particularly talented, which undermined her confidence. At that age, “it’s so important what others see in you,” Mirzakhani said. “I lost my interest in math.” But fortunately for all humanity, next teacher and mentor improved her confidence and interest. She PERSISTED and become Harvard and Stanford professor in Math and eventually win the award. She used to say, ‘You have to ignore low-hanging fruit, which is a little tricky, I’m not sure if it’s the best way of doing things, actually — you’re torturing yourself along the way.” But she enjoys it, she said. “Life isn’t supposed to be easy.” You should always try to do your best no matter what outcome will be.
Maya Lin: A Chinese-American who healed the wound of the nation by her design, Maya Lin designed the Vietnam Veteran Memorials for more than 58,000 who died in Vietnam. When even remembrance of the armed forces in the 70s was not a popular thing to do, a Chinese-American was an instrument of reconciliation for all veteran of war in Vietnam. Despite many oppositions and withdrawal of money from individuals such as Ross Perot, she PERSISTED. Her design is picturing what Vietnam meant to all and how to pass through those painful times not by ignoring about it but by talking about it. By cutting a wound in to the earth to create a sacred place of healing in our nation’s capital, she closed the wound which was bleeding. She showed us that we as a nation when we work together, we can heal our wounds spiritually and physically.
Mother Teresa: A daughter of Yugoslavia and spent most of her life in India for the Forgotten people among Hindu, Muslim and Sikh “the poor and the dying”. She showed us it is not about how much you do, but how much love you put into what you do. God does not require us to succeed, he only requires that we try. As she always quoted the St. Francis of Assisi, she reminded us to be an instrument of love, faith, hope and bring light to those in need. She went through all this despite many times asked not to at first. She was exposed to much resistance, but she PERSISTED and changed the world. “We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.”
Wangari Maathai: A Kenyan activist, who founded Green Belt movement in 1977 which through shared responsibility with other women, planted more than 30 million trees. Many were against her but she PERSISTED. She protected women’s autonomy and gave a way to social and economic positions to women. She overcame fear and gave power to the women. She used Symbolism of the freedom ride and showed us you can use biodiversity to change the culture of abuse and misuse. Courage, patience, resilience of her group, cultivated a peaceful transition and more stable society.
Challenges should not scare us, they should inspire us to step forward and prove equal to the task. The right way is not always the popular and easy way, standing for right when it is unpopular is a true test of moral character. As Malala once said, “So let us wage a global struggle against illiteracy, poverty and terrorism and let us pick up our books and pens. They are our most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world.” We need to learn from the grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo. Now it is the time we all need to get involved. Thomas Aquinas said, if the highest aim of a captain were to preserve his ship, he would leave it in port forever. As one of noble Laureate once said, “When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant.”
Let us Move the society from where it is to where it has never been before. FDR said this country demands bold, persistent experimentation. It is common sense to take a method and try it and if it fails, admit it frankly and try another, but above all, try something. Now the world needs our help, let us do something about it.