Tuesday, March 06 2012
As we mark International Women’s Day, we turn to human rights activist Naomi Tutu – who grew up black and female in apartheid South Africa as the third daughter of Archbishop Desmond Tutu - for inspiration, insight, humor and hope. Her passionate remarks on women’s empowerment were part of Womenetics’ “Global Women’s Initiative,” which included 22 global leaders and was presented in October 2011 in Atlanta.
Growing up the 'daughter of ...' challenged Naomi Tutu to find her own place in the world. She has taken up the challenge and channeled the opportunities that she has been given to raise her voice as a champion for the dignity of all.
Here she begins with a personal insight, “When we talk about empowering women in developing counties, particularly empowering women on the African continent, there is a sense of a picture of women as simply recipients of aid, people waiting to be empowered, waiting to be saved. And I come to you today as an African woman to say that is not the African women that I know, who raised me.”
She also shares the story of asking women she met in rural South Africa, “What do you?” And when they responded, “Oh my child, I do nothing” - Tutu was determined to see what “nothing” looked like. She began with the idea of following one woman for one day a week. But after doing this just twice, she decided once a month would suffice. “I need more recovery time from doing ‘nothing’,” said Tutu.
After following these women who worked from sun up till late in the evening, Tutu came away knowing that “they were taught that what they do is of little significance.”
In her talk she speaks passionately about Join My Village – an innovative, online social change initiative that seeks to empower women and girls in the developing world. As their ambassador, she explained, “We are a program that doesn’t say we are going to save African women… Join My Village is about being that bridge between women and girls who are already striving, who already have an idea and a dream for a different way of living for themselves, for their families and for their communities and the rest of the world.”
Tutu closes her talk with a vision of what true empowerment for women might hold - a different world order that liberates and celebrates the gifts of diverse people and where our energy, our talent and ideas could begin to heal the world.
Here are some other stories about empowering women globally:
After escaping sexual slavery in her native Cambodia, Somaly Mam dedicates her life to eradicating human trafficking and providing survivors the tools to move on.
Dr. Edit Schlaffer shares the story of two Nigerian women who put aside their religious differences to combat violent extremism that is ravaging their country.
Francine LeFrak's SameSky bracelets give HIV-positive women in Rwanda the opportunity to provide for their families while gaining entrepreneurial skills.