Embracing the Struggle to be Heard

Motivation. As a long time advocate for gender equality, it’s a concept I’ve been struggling with as of late. Especially in light of today’s seemingly endless cycle of corruption and cronyism.

Yet given all the setbacks we’ve experienced as of late here in the US, I was given immense hope after spending time with gender rights activists in Haiti last week, a country where the women undoubtedly have it much harder socially and economically.”

I spent time in the southern region of Haiti, an hour east of Jacmel in the mountains with the women of OFAVMA- a group led by the incredible Rosenie Gustave. The organization represents and empowers the voices of 2500 women farmers in the South, many of whom struggle to be heard by their government at all. They need a voice at the table.

I heard stories from grassroots women leaders about their challenges to achieve progress without any help from government sources. Woman after woman stood up to their male elected officials saying “I voted for you because you promised us a decent road but nothing has happened.  Pregnant women in labor are dying on their way down the mountain.’ The male representatives maintain they never promised it.

Despite the frustration and tragic consequences of not being heard by these officials, the women continued to stand up with clear voices, one more powerful than the next. As I sat there watching, their resilience astounded me. Rather than backing down, it occurred to me that these women are actually motivated by the struggle to be heard. Because struggle is nothing new to them, they see it merely as a part of the work to be done, versus an extra burden they are forced to deal with.

This sense of struggle also allows them a sense of perspective. Women talked of the sympathy they have for us women in the US at this time under our current administration. Talk about a role reversal and a good dose of perspective. They also understand the struggle of other women of color internationally whose situations are more dire than theirs.

In light of this year’s International Women’s Day, I vow to stay motivated in the struggle for gender equality here in the US and around the world. Like the women of OFAVMA, I will keep my head down and continue to do the work at hand. Our voices are the most important things that we have, and rather than backing down, I will relish in the struggle to become even louder. I hope you’ll join me.

To learn more about other incredible organizations empowering women's voices around the world, check out Women Thrive Alliance and Ms. Foundation!