My blog identifies me as a Warrior for Women. By my own reckoning, I’ve lived an accomplished life. However, a visceral part of me still believes I am ‘less than’ men. After all these years, I’m still boxing my way out of the thorough early conditioning women – in all cultures – receive. I have to remind myself often that I’m an exceptional contributory woman.
We women have learned to live with too much shit: being talked over, dismissed, underestimated, objectified, underpaid, and dictated to about our bodies. We face the likelihood of violence at school, work, home, and on the streets. We risk our physical and/or emotional safety every time we dismiss a man. Our culture also perversely messages us that if we embrace feminism, we’ll wind up rejected, suspected, crazy.
We’ve lived with all of this as if it’s normal, but it cannot continue. Many earlier battles for women’s rights have been hard won. Many still require a fight – with an elevated fighting ethos. A Warrior Code informs how we organize, resist, and disable the forces that threaten our sanity and innate power.
Rather than reinvent long-standing codes, I’ve studied traditional (men’s) codes with an eye to molding them to womanist sensibilities. A Warrior Woman Code looks like this:
Foundational Virtues: courage, loyalty, and integrity.
Operational Code – recast for women:
Mission first. A woman’s biological mandate is to mother healthy, productive human beings. This requires tactical and logistical prowess: support the unfurling of a child’s unique purpose and gifts while defending them against predators, exploiters, and craven assholes. The same applies for our human mission, which may not include childbearing but which will always include some element of nurturing.
Plan to win (formerly: Never Accept Defeat). We may be tired and distracted, but together we are invincible.
Persevere (formerly: Never Quit). Sustained self-care and unity stokes the courage to advance.
Bring everyone home (formerly:Never Leave a Fallen Comrade). Women have a LOT of fallen comrades. The 700+ million stranded in extreme poverty, believing no one is coming for them, must have the tools to rise. The status of the poorest and least fortunate shapes the status of all. This belief compels me to advocate persistently for the global adoption of the Women’s Center Model, informed as it is by the ‘least fortunate’ women.
Elevating women, bringing them home to the sisterhood, requires seismic attitude shifts. Women’s Centers are base camps for this transformation. The Woman Warrior Code is how we suit up. I’m always scouting for co-conspirators.
In 2022, 274 million people will need humanitarian assistance and protection. This number is a significant increase from 235 million people a year ago. Devex estimates that donors provided
17.2 billion – less than half of the 37.7 billion needed. And that doesn’t include development assistance.
International humanitarian aid is Big Business, involving the U.N., multi-national corporations, international NGOs, Governments, and an assortment of foundations and individuals.
The question “Who gives what to whom?” plunges one into a dizzying array of analyses.
And then there are scary rumors about millions gone missing in a pipeline leaky with corruption, poor accounting and accountability, and just plain incompetence.
In my little corner of this mess, I’m troubled by organizations whose largesse creates cash flow challenges for small community-based organizations like Women’s Centers. An example: a well-meaning foundation ships a bunch of equipment but requires the recipient to pay customs clearance and transport costs to their location. Never mind that all of the equipment is available locally. Why not just send the cash – avoiding all the drama of international shipping, and feeding a national economy in recession.
Then there’s the tragically hilarious conundrum of USAID, wringing its hands over how to localize aid, but evidently not willing to part ways with old buddy U.S.-based INGOs working in the so-called developing world.
Baraka Women’s Center can knit together an astonishingly effective national program to empower Kenyan women. But no joy from the monied in Kenya. For now, an productive local asset advances, but much more slowly than the needs of the women it could serve. A generous infusion of cash changes everything. Often the obvious is not.
I love girls. I used to be one. It was a time not particularly festooned with lovely experiences, but one thing that defined it: the presence or absence of mom. The role of adult women in shaping girls’ lives can never be understated.
In the non-profit and philanthropic universe, ‘Girls’ has become the latest buzzword. Do we have a shared definition of the word ‘girl’? For me, a girl is a female age 3 through 12 years. A child. Do current trends indicate teens should now be included? Consider also the expression ‘one of the girls’, usually referring to adult females and used either pejoratively or affectionately depending on source.
This – and society’s – often fawning obsession with youth ignores certain realities.
Girls don’t know what they don’t know.
They haven’t lived very long but may have seen more than a child should. That doesn’t infer understanding. If they’re smart, they find answers from women – mothers, grandmothers, aunties, older sisters – with wisdom based on lived experience. Women’s Centers uniquely serve this role.
Girlhood delivers different experiences depending on culture.
These tender years ideally would be the realm of unimpeded curiosity, of playful explorations that reveal innate gifts, and of gilded dreams to use those talents. In less privileged places, girlhood is a forced march, a time of repression, with limited opportunities for the flowering of femaleness.
Expectations for girls to assume adult responsibilities can hobble or destroy aspirations.
While some girls possess natural instincts for leadership and activism, most must be guided by the hackles that rise over injustices they see or experience. Their leadership skills emerge with compassionate and patient coaching.
‘Young females’ doesn’t fall easily from the lips, but ‘youth’ offers less of an ambiguous pigeonhole than ‘girls.’ I love the idea of promoting and celebrating girls, especially feisty ones. But we gain little by seeing them as standard bearers for the gender justice struggle that requires the power of women’s wisdom.