“No force on Earth dares to neglect me.”
That’s what a Yemeni woman told CARE when we asked her about political participation. To join in protests to support her right to have a say in her future, she had to walk through mountains for an entire night — once every week — and then walk home again.
She and her fellow women in the Middle East face dramatic obstacles, but she is not giving up. Despite all of the challenges she has to overcome, far more than I face to have a say in my government, she is fiercely committed to her ends. She reminds me why we dedicate so much of our work to women’s empowerment: women are brave.
Every time I visit a CARE project, I meet brave women who overcome overwhelming obstacles every day. These women inspire me to continue the work to make sure that all women can have a say, can bring themselves and their families out of poverty, can live free and equal lives.
Pinki, a student in a CARE-supported school for girls in India, told her family that she would not get married at 14, and secretly taught all of the girls in her village to ride a bike so that they would be able to go places and achieve their goals.
Ramatou, in Benin, who’s parents tried to marry her off at age 11, went back to school after her friends found out about the plan and the group of girls convinced her parents to stop the wedding.
There are so many stories of courage, some from women who would be in danger if we published their names on our site. Girls in Ethiopia push to get economic independence and be allowed to have friends after they get married and have children. Girls in Bangladesh go to school even though they are afraid of being harassed on the walk there. Women in Malawi who confront and expose the people who abuse their daughters, despite personal threats trying to force them to remain silent. Women in Jordan perform skits to highlight the challenges of violence in their communities, even in communities where they are expected to remain silent.
For every challenge I have ever faced as a woman in the United States — and there still are challenges, still voices who tell us that women should be quiet, let the men make decisions, accept that we are somehow less than male counterparts — one of the women I meet in my work overcomes a barrier that is more dangerous.
In Morocco, an activist for women’s rights says that despite her family’s fears that she will be arrested or beaten, “I’m not afraid. If I don’t do this, no one will do this for me.”
No one will do it for her, but we can do it with her.