“How do you celebrate International Women’s Day?”
If someone had asked me that question a few years ago, my silence would have been so absolute they’d have heard crickets.
What is International Women’s Day?
Depending on the region, International Women’s Day, celebrated on March 8, can serve either as a gesture of love and appreciation for women, akin to Mother’s Day, or as a more formal recognition of women’s economic, political and social achievements–past, present and future.
Until recently, I didn’t know any of this. I grew up in the United States and International Women’s Day was never a part of my schema. I was disconnected from our past, from what previous generations of women had done for me. For instance, I don’t remember learning about what the suffragettes went through and although I may have learned the date women won the vote, I don’t recall conversation about those women themselves–their courage, their hardship, their determination in sticking to what they believed despite the consequences. Women’s rights movements have been a huge part of my country’s history, and yet I didn’t know the name Alice Paul until I watched the movie Iron Jawed Angels.
There’s still more I didn’t know. I wasn’t conscious of how the mass executions of women in the 16th and 17th centuries across Europe and America related to me, a young girl growing up in the land of the free in the 1980’s and 90’s. It wasn’t until I was a birthing mother in 2007, tapping into my creative power, that I realized it was more than midwives that were burned: it was also the genius of all women. And daily this destruction continues, each time our true voices are silenced, or written off. But every time we can follow our intuitive, receptive, connected, wise ways of knowing, we bring balance back into the world.
And the world needs us, the girls and women of the world especially. In much of the developing world, women still lack equal access to education and health services. Though maternal health has gained recognition on the international agenda, pregnancy and childbirth still claim a life every 90 seconds. In parts of sub-Saharan Africa, more women die from pregnancy-related causes than from anything else. Gender-based violence in the form of mass rape and honor killings continue in a world where being born a girl can make a child “unwanted,” a world where our “girl cell,” as Eve Ensler calls it, is suppressed. Child marriage, female genital mutilation, sex traffiking, obstetric fistula–these words may sound foreign to the Western ear, but they are the real and lived experiences of women.
So what do we do? That is our question now. And here is what I have to tell you: we do what we’ve always innately known how to do. We perceive with our hearts and we trust life. We’ve been told our whole lives that it is our heads which hold all the power, yet if we get in our heads, we think, “the world is a mess, how can I change anything, what can little ole Carrie Lee from Neptune Beach do?” Yet our hearts see the transcendent opportunity. All we have to do is awaken our hearts. That is how we change the world. We trust that every heart will awaken when ready. We trust that we are here at exactly the right moment in history, waking up and reclaiming our genius. Our genius is that we know how to give birth! We know how to bring something new into the world–not only babies, but ideas, projects, movements, revolutions. We aren’t here to fix the old reality, we are here to birth a new one!
In that spirit, I will celebrate International Women’s Day 2012 by joining a global phenomenon, Join me on the Bridge, that was birthed by the women in Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda. In the middle of a violent war, these women gathered on a bridge that connects their countries to call for peace. In two countries where millions of deaths and rampant mass rape span more than a decade, these women envision a radically different world, and dare us to imagine it with them. On March 8, women across the globe will gather on bridges, symbolically building bridges of peace and hope for the future. We are the creators of new possibilities. We are the engineers and architects of new kinds of bridges, invisible ones that connect us all. We are opening our hearts and birthing the world we have always sensed was there.
The question now is yours: How will you celebrate International Women’s Day?
It is my deepest desire that everyone reading this will awaken their heart to something new.