Make It Happen
by Musimbi Kanyoro
The 2016 International Women’s Day theme is: “Make It happen”. I say, “Make gender equality happen. Now. No Exceptions.
Eleanor Roosevelt’s words from 1958 ring true today: “Where after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home – so close and so small, that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world… such are places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity, without discrimination”
Today we proudly chant that “Gender equality is a human right!” Yet inequality is prevalent and systemic everywhere, no country has achieved equality. Do I despair? Yes and no. Yes - because I, like you am tired of waiting. No - because of the small, often publicly invisible, “wins” that Roosevelt references and I see in my work every day. They are adding up. In the world of civil and human rights, one measurement of success is the small, significant steps in the right direction.
This is the path to gender equality that my organization, Global Fund for Women, champions through its grantmaking and advocacy.
We fund women because we know they believe in their own liberation, they work for it and demand change. Social change is complex, dynamic, messy, and unpredictable. As Audrey Lorde smartly said “…the masters tools can never dismantle the masters’ house”.
Our grantees are doing the hard work of advocacy, education, organizing and resisting oppression - the kind of things that can be harder for people to get their arms around when compared to vaccines or school books. Changing behavior, community norms, policies and practices brings systemic change. What does systemic change look like? It looks like the Democratic Republic of Congo Ministry of Education enacting a new policy allowing girls to stay in school while pregnant. It looks like the government of Kenya finally extending land inheritance rights to women. It looks like the government of Vietnam strengthening national legislation on domestic violence.
On their own, these successes do not add up to worldwide gender equality. But when you consider the fact that many of these women and girls had minimal or no rights in the first place, they are huge. Taking this path requires us all to free our minds from the shackles that come with traditional definitions of success.
By doing so we reveal the reality that women and girls are demonstrating that they are not problems to be solved but agents of change.
About Musimbi Kanyoro
Dr. Musimbi Kanyoro is President and CEO of Global Fund for Women - one of the world’s leading foundations for gender equality, standing up for the human rights of women and girls. It campaigns for zero violence, economic and political empowerment, and sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Global Fund for Women uses its powerful network to rally advocates, raise money, and get support to where it’s most urgently needed. It funds and partners with women-led groups who are courageously fighting for justice in their own communities.
This rights-based approach gets to the root of gender inequality and is the most effective way to create permanent social change. Since 1987, Global Fund for Women has invested in nearly 5,000 grass-roots organizations in 175 countries, helping to win rights for millions of women and girls.
 (Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches (Freedom, California Crossing Press) 1964)