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Last Updated: 03/16/2009Founding Sisters
As we celebrate International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month throughout March, we need to remember that the origins of these events go back to long-ago protests in Europe and the United States for the political rights of working women. Those political roots are important, especially for those of us who care about history and want to learn from the past. Certainly, in the United States, our public media has been filled with recent celebrations of our history, including remarkable insights about Abraham Lincoln on the 200th anniversary of his birth and about John (and Abigail) Adams during the brilliantly produced HBO television series. They certainly provoked me to go back to my history books and to read more about the founders of the United States. One of my favorites was “Founding Brothers” by Joseph Ellis. That book was a wonderful reminder of how fortunate the United States was to have such exceptional founders – people who put community and nation first, people who knew how to compromise, and people who had the highest standards of integrity.
Now, why would the CEO of an organization known for training and empowering women promote a book titled “Founding Brothers”? The answer is simple: I hope future generations around the world will be reading about the “founding sisters” in their countries.
There are many women around the globe who are writing the initial chapters of those books. While most are unseen by the elites in their countries, these grassroots activists are providing services and pushing for reforms in their countries. These “sisters” abound with the unique characteristics of those founding brothers in 18th century America – i.e., intelligence, integrity, commitment, collegiality, energy, the ability to compromise and a willingness to sacrifice for the larger whole.
The challenge for all of us, as we celebrate women this month, is to find new ways to expand the voices and profiles of these women. Certainly we at CEDPA, and those in our sister organizations around the world, are committed to helping a new generation of women leaders emerge so that they can become their country’s “founding sisters.” We want them to emulate women like CEDPA board member, Phoebe M. Asiyo, a former commissioner of the Constitution of Kenya Review Commission and current chair of Kenya’s Caucus for Women’s Leadership. Phoebe has had a remarkable impact in Kenya and on all of us who have had the honor to work with her at CEDPA. What are some of the steps we need to take to help build more “Phoebes”?
As we move forward on all of these steps, we can be sure that we are paving the way for that next generation of “founding sisters.” I can hardly wait to read that book.
Carol Peasley is president of the centre for development and population activities (CEDPA)