"If I can't dance, I don't want to be part of
Emma Goldman, activist
My Infinite Family net buddy, Mbali, (we're electronic pen pals) lives in South Africa. During a skype session last August, she told me she had the day off from school. Her country was celebrating Women's Day, honoring the South African women who held a national march in 1956 to protest the requirement that African persons carry a special identification. This objection to the "pass" which curtailed freedom of movement became the beginning of the end for apartheid.
Mbali asked if we had such a holiday honoring our women and I had to say no. I explained we have Mother's Day, which honors women's roles in the family, but nothing to commemorate women's influence and leadership in the larger world. In fact, in my experience, the women who are behind many, if not most, important achievements seldom get credit. As my friend, Rose Meile who was head of the Nebraska Commission for Women was fond of saying, "You can achieve a great deal if you don't care who gets credit for it."
Since March is Women's History month in the U.S and seventy countries around the world celebrate International Women's Day on March 8th, I decided to honor some specific women and their achievements -- giving credit where credit is due.
Three women together are responsible for the first achievement I want to mention. Many people in America has heard of Title IX, but few know that activist Bernice Sandler, Congresswoman Edith Green. and Congresswoman Patsy T. Mink collaborated together to author and enact Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. In 2002 it was renamed the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act. People today would be surprised that it made no mention of sports.
My experience consulting with school districts on implementing Title IX in K-12 school districts in Nebraska taught me its most important impact was the change in people's attitude towards the interests and capabilities of women and girls. "Our girls don't want to do sports" has become, what my middle school age granddaughter reports, "Soccer is soo fun!" and she and her teammates chant, "Girls Rule!"
The second achievement is most recent. With all the images of brave young men demonstrating in Tahrir Square in Egypt, the press took little notice of women's contributions. Yet when you look closely, women played unique and inspiring roles. Women used their internet and social media skills to get the word out, both inside and outside of the country. One Herculean effort at education was made by Dalia Ziada, who translated the comic book, "Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story" into Arabic. By distributing this comic book widely in Tahrir Square she made available wisdom from an earlier generation and a different time and place. Were the demonstrations more peaceful and effective because of her actions? Makes sense to me.
Sheila K. Collins © 2011