10 women making positive strides worldwide.
It is clear that the more power women have, the more positive change we will see on a global level.
“If you empower women, you can change the world,” said actress-activist Meg Ryan while trekking across northern India on a third world humanitarian mission with representatives from the international aid organization CARE. The goal is to break through barriers keeping so many women in poverty and without rights. Like Ryan, the women on our list tap their armories to confront, protest and articulate what it takes to improve lives and the planet at large.
1. Kavita Ramdas
Leader of The Global Fund for Women, Ramdas has garnered unprecedented support for international human rights for her sisters by tripling grant assets during her tenure from $6 million to $21 million. Fluent in Hindi/Urdu, English, German and conversational Tamil, Spanish and French, she speaks the language most activists care about today: The wide ranging exportation of good will. The Fund’s grants have ranged from several hundred to kick start a business to $800,000 to halt human trafficking of females and sexual abuse. In an interview with journalist Lynn Sherr, Ramdas says this is the moment for women in making a difference and an impact on poverty, ongoing war and militarization, which perpetuates a culture of violence against women: “Violence against women continues to be condoned on some level,” she shared. “Why is it that you have statistics like a woman being raped every six minutes in this country, in the United States?”
2. Hillary Clinton
“Obviously, we and many other nations are quite hopeful that these ‘flickers of progress’ as President Obama called them will be ignited into a movement for change that will benefit the people of the country,” the 67th Secretary of State Clinton articulated upon arriving in reform-ready Burma as the first senior American diplomat to visit in 50 years. Taking the high road in standing by her man-boss, Clinton’s brilliance and measurable experience makes many wonder what if she had been elected president? Hillary-speak ranges from talking gay rights at the UN to gauging parliamentary elections in Russia and passionately seeking an end to the horrendous treatment of women in post-revolution Egypt. The always eloquent and former first lady proves resourcefulness and resiliency are DNA advantages which allow women like her to lead, shine and earn their very own spots in history.
3. Rachel Maddow
Demonstrating the growing popularity of the MSNBC talk show host was her edging out Michael Moore in an Alternet poll of the Most Influential Progressive Media Figures of the year. A charismatic, somewhat androgynous counterpart to the neo-conservative women of Fox News, Maddow clearly holds her own sans the biting wit and sarcasm of John Stewart or shameless flirtatious fluttering of a Piers Morgan. She’s real – the Christiane Amanpour of her time who doesn’t need to risk life and limb in wartime to gain worldwide attention. The Rachel Maddow Show is the second highest-rated program in its time slot ahead of Larry King Live, behind only Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity Show. Whether or not they dig the liberal pundit, viewers who tune in certainly are enlightened on why crucial change in jobs, healthcare, housing and hunger are occurring so slowly – with a mirror held up to the GOP.
4. Asmaa Mahfouz
Call it the vlog that sparked a revolution – and it was delivered by one Egyptian woman who had had enough. Thousands fled to Tahrir Square, the Egyptian government tried to block Facebook and you know the rest. One of five recipients awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 2011, Asmaa Mahfouz went from relative obscurity to overnight becoming a hero, credited with spurring on that mass uprising. So many who watched her on YouTube were moved by her bravery. As one wrote: “Asmaa, you have inspired the whole world with your strength of spirit and courage. As you know, governments don’t speak for the people; Governments usually speak only for the rich and powerful. ” Hopefully, she can lend the same courage to combating the systematic violence against women in post-revolution Egypt – where journalists and protesters are stripped and brutalized in the same streets where women risked their lives to effect change.
5. Maude Barlow
“Do not listen to those who say there is nothing you can do to the very real and large social and environmental issues of our time,” warns Maude Barlow, a charismatic Canadian who serves as national chairperson of the Council of Canadians and the Washington-based Food and Water Watch. She also founded the San Francisco-based International Forum on Globalization and a Councilor with the Hamburg-based World Future Council. Barlow practices what she preaches when it comes to water woes and climate change issues – earning 11 honorary doctorates and countless awards including the 2005 Right Livelihood Award (alternative Nobel) and the 2009 Earth Day Canada Outstanding Environmental Achievement Award. More recently, she was named the U.N Senior Advisor on Water Issues – the ideal person to convince governments that clean water is a fundamental legal human right that must be preserved through laws and immediate action.
6. Meg Ryan
It would be cliche to describe this former “Sally” as the quintessential girl next door (since it has been done repeatedly) as now she is a full fledged woman, who seeks to empower the disadvantaged – exporting good will to the third world. Ryan’s four-day trip across northern India with CARE signaled she has entered another phase of stardom, getting comfortable in her own skin to “hold hands” with some of the world’s most disadvantaged women. Ryan, like other Hollywood do-gooders (Oprah, Sandra Bullock, Angelina Jolie, Christina Applegate, Isabella Rossellini) has the gift of visibility; wherever she goes the cameras follow and that leads to public awareness.
7. Michelle Goldberg
Former Senior writer for Salon and current author and Senior Contributing Writer for The Daily Beast and Newsweek, Goldberg counters the radical extremism of the Michelle Bachmann’s of the world in pushing for reproductive freedom for women and affordable healthcare for all – in addition to other progressive platforms. Her first book, Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism was a New York Times bestseller and a finalist for the 2007 New York Public Library Helen Bernstein Award for Excellence in Journalism. More recently she made a solid platform in her Feminist Case for Flawed Reform - penning a manifesto of sorts which puts forth the inequities of the health-insurance system and how legislation will further erode abortion coverage for women – a major step backward for reproductive rights. Yet feminists should support it anyway, she argues: “More than 17 million women are uninsured, and millions more are under-insured. Women are more likely to rely on their spouse’s insurance coverage leaving them vulnerable if they’re divorced or widowed, if their husband becomes old enough to qualify for Medicare or if their partner’s employer decides to drop dependent coverage, which is happening with increasing frequency.”
8. Kate Stohr
Grassroots design for the greater good is what Architecture For Humanity envisions. So with that, Stohr and co-founder, Cameron Sinclair, endeavored to direct $4 million in disaster relief and rebuilding in post-Katrina New Orleans and tsunami ravaged Southeast Asia. What started as a humanitarian non-profit has expanded into an international force with 40 chapters on five continents which networks with local partners to develop innovative models in sustainable and humanitarian design solutions. No wonder she was named one of the great green giants by Tree Hugger as well as being honored as the recipient of Wired magazine’s 2006 Rave Award for Architecture. A former journalist, she has tapped her background in project management, website development and deep understanding of urban planning issues as managing director of AFH. Smart urban planning might be the very thing that saves cities, as well as denizens who will be facing increasing shortages in resources as the U.S. continues to be late to the plate when it comes to taking action.
9. Anita Acevedo
Warm healing hands as insight into the body over western meds and cutting? Acevedo is booked months in advance as word has spread that this rolfer and former family therapist offers the integrated alternative approach to modern medicine with a track record of healing patients with herniated disks, pinched nerves, drop foot injuries, and all other debilitating neurological and physical impairments brought on by activity or age. She also has aided infants suffering from chronic earaches and colic and children with ADD, scoliosis and autism as well as teens dealing with anxiety and hormonal shifts. The fact the southerner practices in Marin County is further testament to her positioning herself in the hub of the naturopathic and homeopathic revolution in health care – teaming with psychotherapists and other well known practitioners like Dr. Todd Maderis to take away acute pain. It all was born of her own healing when she was an endurance athlete in Alaska competing in 100 mile adventure races that took a toll. “My body was compressed, achy, tight and off balance with chronic pain in my low back and my jaw was so tight I was experiencing migraines,” she recalls. “Through Dr. Rolf’s life study of manipulating and organizing connective tissue, I became taller, more flexible and graceful. Many of the unresolved childhood traumas I had been processing began to be uncovered as my body unfolded and opened.”
10. Laura Kimpton
Her mammoth Burning Man installations go beyond her highly collected montages and encaustic works to spread messages such as “MOM” and “LOVE” and “OINK.” Her book Who Gave Birth that came out in 2010 was described by the Northern California artist as “a celebration of all MOMS and the feminine energy that comprises the true understanding that the original MOM is the earth.” Kimpton salvages recycled objects for her mixed media – found objects, bird skulls, original photos, picture frames, books and resin to let her creativity take flight. If you consider art to be effective communication, then you can see how one persuasive Kimpton picture is worth a thousand words.