For years, women have broken through glass ceilings, leading in innovative ways across sectors and within their communities. Women are no longer relegated to traditional support roles without the agency to choose them; these days, countless women are taking the lead in tackling some of the world’s most critical issues, and women all over the globe are playing major roles in healing their communities and taking action for justice and peace.
Every day, women and girls act as sheroes in their communities, by working to defend families against violence, speaking up for those who do not have a voice, and paving the path for others to succeed. Here are a few of them:
Empowering Future Generations
One powerful way in which women act as heroes in their own communities is by developing youth empowerment organizations that focus on civil rights and gender equality. Many of these organizations tackle racial and gender discrimination by shaping the development of girls across the globe, and offering them opportunities that they might not have had otherwise. In order for our world to continue to change for the better, it is crucial that future generations are raised with the knowledge that they are strong and capable individuals with voices that matter.
One great example of a hero who is working to empower girls is Beverly Bond, who founded BLACK GIRLS ROCK!, a youth empowerment mentor organization, in 2006. At the same time, she created the annual BLACK GIRLS ROCK! Awards to “celebrate the accomplishments of exceptional women of color who have made outstanding contributions in their careers and stand as inspirational and positive role models in the community.” Beverly is transforming the lives of young Black girls through leadership, education, and the development of positive identity by providing the tools for self-empowerment and self-improvement. As a result of Beverly’s commitment to her incredible organization, programs like Black Girls Lead and Queens’ Camp for Leadership and Excellence help inspire young girls to reach new heights, develop leadership-like qualities and the confidence to overcome life’s challenges. BLACK GIRLS ROCK! boldly takes on the issues of self-worth, goals and aspirations, and provides black women a platform to challenge the status quo.
“We must continue to trail blaze, we must continue to break glass ceilings. We must lift as we climb.”
- Beverly Bond
Protecting Those Who Can’t Protect Themselves
Far too often, women across the globe are at risk of harm and exploitation. For example, human trafficking, which is a problem both in the United States and internationally, disproportionately affects women. Women are also too frequently the victims of various forms of violence -- domestically, sexually, and systemically, to name a few. As a result, there is an overwhelming need for services to help transform and protect the lives of these women.
Rachel Lloyd is a shero who is making an impact in this area of anti-trafficking. As an advocate and author, Rachel founded Girls Education and Mentoring Services (GEMS) in 1998. Through education and guidance, Lloyd is helping change the lives of women who have experienced commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking. Through GEMS, she works to provide young women with empathetic, consistent support and viable opportunities for positive change, while transforming public perception and policy. In 2008, her advocacy ensured the passage of New York State’s Safe Harbour for Sexually Exploited Children Act, which became the first law in the nation to protect and not punish trafficked and exploited youth. Since then 13 other states have followed suit, and her courageous commitment and passion for the lives of others continues to make an impact on thousands of young girls today.
“Rescue can’t be a plan for anyone’s life. That’s not a long-term plan. It has to be about empowerment, about opportunity, about building on the inherent strengths somebody has.”
Focusing on Peace and Social Justice
Debates over race, police, class and inequality happen every day -- you can hear them in the media, and on the streets of every city in America. So many people are seeking solutions to the critical issues that our society faces every day. But one key point we must not forget in these discussions is the end goal: peace. Social justice is about creating a better world, where everyone, regardless of race or gender, can live peacefully.
Another shero who inspires change through peaceful action is activist Lateefah Simon. At age 19, Simon was appointed Executive Director of the Center for Young Women’s Development (CYWD) in San Francisco, the nation’s first economic and gender justice organization solely run for and by low-income and formerly incarcerated young women. With a mission to keep young women off the street and out of trouble, she went on to create the City of San Francisco’s first re-entry program to keep young offenders from committing additional crimes. Today, she iscommitted to nurturing the next generation of social-justice leaders. Her kind-hearted approach and desire to drive change is just one of the many reasons she has make such a remarkable impact.
“Many folks have asked me ‘How do you do it and why have you sacrificed so much to do this work?’ The answer comes easy. I look at my daughter and find hope in that she is living in a world of struggle, of social and political movement. She and the other five-year-olds will grow up in a more just, more equitable world. She motivates me.”
- Lateefah Simon
Highlighting the hard work and dedication of the women who are making a difference is an impactful way to spread their message and inspire others to do the same. That’s why we’re focused on sharing the stories of the amazing women who are making a difference. How do you make an impact in your community and in the lives of others? Do you know someone who created change whose story we should share? Comment on this post, or share the story on Facebook or Twitter.